There’s a new taco bar in town. It’s called bartaco.
It’s one of the brands of a restaurant group called Barteca, which also has Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant and specializes in the flavors of Spain, Uruguay, Brazil and Southern California. So of course it is based in South Norwalk, Conn.
Located in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, bartaco, which insists on being lowercased, offers light bites and “upscale street food” in what it calls a beachy atmosphere, if photo collages of Arnold Palmer and other golfers make you think of catching some waves.
Here’s how it works. The menu is a tiny little pamphlet with minimal descriptions. You don’t simply tell a waiter your selection. Instead, you use a small pencil — just like the golfers use! — to mark a little card with your choices and the number of each item. Sort of like at a sushi bar. Then when you’ve made your choices, you place the order card in a tabletop card holder to signal to a server that you are ready to order. Because God forbid the servers should have to pay enough attention to their tables to know that.
That little bit of information wasn’t shared with me when the host showed me to my table. He did say that if I needed something I should place the little card with the restaurant’s dragonfly logo on it in the holder, because (see above note about not overtaxing the servers’ awareness of their guests’ needs).
As I was making my selections, I noticed that the boxes for the checkmarks didn’t line up with the names of the food items. And in fact when my server came by to pluck my card from the holder (the host had come by my table after I had waited a while and explained that that was what I was to do), she read my selections incorrectly.
And when the food runner place my tacos in front of me, he announced my choices incorrectly. (They were, indeed, what I had ordered — he was just wrong about what he was serving.)
The food was mostly good. The Stewed Beans, essentially black bean soup, had nice hunks of pork in it though it was fairly mild flavored.
I liked the duck taco, served on a small corn tortilla with an ample handful of fresh cilantro. The meat was moist and flavorful.
I was intrigued by the falafel taco and so I ticked off the box next to that one, as well. It consisted of two chickpea fritters atop a tortilla with cucumbers, carrots and cilantro in a creamy sauce. I liked it because I like falafels, but I think I’d stick with meat items next time.
Aside from the Arnie Palmer and seaside pictures, the interior features hanging baskets that double as light fixtures, a central bar and spacious booths with wood-bench seating.
One more note about the service. I found the young staff to be mostly exuberant, but there needs to be training beyond plucking menu cards from the holders. In that training session, it would wonderful if someone would tell the servers to never, ever, under any circumstances take a seat at the booth to talk to a guest. It’s un unwelcome intrusion of space and one of my biggest peeves. (Kneeling next to the table is a close second.)
Bartaco ( I don’t care, I always capitalize at the beginning of a sentence) is at 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-801-8226.