The three-month mark can pertain to many aspects in life. “The talk” in a relationship. A lucrative quarter in the stock market. The length of a Kardashian marriage. Opening a restaurant? [Insert record scratch.] This was the case when it came to Alex and Jenna Victoria’s (of Amore Victoria) new business venture. Transforming the old Birdhouse (before that, Duplex) space into an authentic Mexican eatery called Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar didn’t seem like an easy feat – let alone in three months. The stars aligned. Decisions were made. A copious amount of avocados were purchased. And here we are at the soft opening. Perhaps third time’s a charm for this Hennepin real estate. Or maybe Italian was their true calling.
After we got over the logo’s circa-1996-blog-font (and a few typos), we hemmed and hawed over the cornucopia of spirits on the backside of the menu. An assortment of tequila was present. Wine made a cameo. Margaritas were front and center. But, no beer. Gasp. (Later in the evening, I thought I heard Pacifico uttered faintly in the background. Maybe the beer gods were teasing me.)
Made with Cabrito Blanco tequila, blood orange, pomegranate, yuzu, and scratch sweet and sour, we had high hopes for the La Granada Margarita ($8). Sadly, it fell short – way short. The usual zest and sweetness of blood orange and pomegranate were ousted by tartness. However, a few brownie points were earned back with the Chile de Arbol Margarita ($10). The fresh lime, agave nectar, ancho pepper, and sweet and spicy were harmonious for a lethal libation. We felt the burn, literally, and there was plenty of tequila.
Next, we decided to whet our palate with the Tocino Guacamole. Spoiler Alert: Bad choice. Expecting crispy, smoky bits of bacon, we ended up gnawing on rubber. A face came over both of us. The face you make when you see Miley Cyrus twerk – you’re not quite sure what’s going on, but you just know it’s foul. The other bites without the spare tire bits were OK, but not worth $8 and especially not $12 for a double. Unfortunately, you can’t Command Z in life.
When it came to the tacos ($3 a piece), everything seemed like an overpromise on the menu. The Al Pastor claimed to be rubbed in chile ancho and pineapple, but it never really felt like it came to fruition. Ho hum. The Pescado wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great – a tad on the fishy side and crying for more acidity, onion, and lime. The chipotle sauce wasn’t doing it any favors, either. Textural contrast and vigor were lacking in the Nopales Taco; it was a mushy, one-note nosh. The flavor profile of the Carnitas meat in its natural setting – no accoutrements – was just OK. Disappointed was an understatement.
Fortunately, all was not lost. The Shrimp Ceviche Tostado ($6) was refreshing and well balanced. There was plenty of acidity from the lime, and the ideal amount of onion and cilantro. The heirloom tomatoes made for a nice, local-friendly touch, too. It wasn’t out of this world, but it was just the ticket on a warm, 80-degree night and made us (kind of) forget the bacon blunder for a moment.
Nico’s is like New Year’s Eve. You really want to like it, but afterward you just feel dissatisfied and irked you spent the money. Expectations never really lined up with reality. With that said, though, you’re usually surrounded by good company on this hyped-up occasion. Nico’s was on point with friendly service and a charming atmosphere. That and they’re still new kids on the block.
Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar
Mexican Cuisine in Uptown
2516 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
OWNERS: Alex and Jenna Victoria and Tim Ross
HOURS: Mon-Sun 11am-1am
ENTREE RANGE: $3-$17