By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor
There are two types of people in this world (or at least in San Marcos), and they are divided by their taco provider preference. Most of us in San Marcos have probably faced this decision more than a few times, and there is no doubt that these two competitors are one of the strongest rivalries in the Texas college town taco scene. It is time someone gets down to the nitty gritty and establishes the strengths and weaknesses of both, to make the decision process a little easier on all of us.
If you’ve been to both joints, you know that it’s no question as to who provides the better vibes. Torchy’s encourages customers to sit down and stay a while, with their vibrant decor, fun soundtrack and even full bar at some locations. As I like to say, it caters to all five senses. Fuego, on the other hand, does not focus so much on appearance. The fact that Fuego has a drive-through should tell you right away that it was not intended to be a sophisticated, sit-down restaurant like Torchy’s, but it still possesses a comfortable atmosphere on the inside with ample sets of tables and chairs kept very tidy and a luscious salsa bar that stacks up quite well against most Mexican eateries. They have really won my heart with their 24-hour service and, although painfully slow at times, their drive through can be a true life-saver. In the end, it’s the convenience and price that keeps me coming back to Fuego more often than Torchy’s. Food quality aside, it’s safe to say that Torchy’s takes first place when it comes to ambiance, but unlike Fuego, you can not enjoy Torchy’s at all times of the day, and you certainly can not get their tacos without leaving your car. So, the decision really comes down to the type of occasion.
First of all, the characteristic that makes both of these taco places so mouth-watering in the first place is undoubtedly their creative ingredient combinations. Each one has its fair selection of unique menu items. Fuego takes the cake when it comes to tacos that are just completely absurd in their components and size, such as the Chicken & Waffles taco that not only has a waffle lining the inside of the tortilla, but is also about the size of my face, placed in its own box instead of wrapped in tinfoil, with maple syrup instead of salsa. I’m not sure how it can get much better than that. However, I did just find out that Torchy’s has a secret menu, in fact, with a whole series of delectable tacos too extravagant to be advertised on the regular menu. They also always have a featured “Taco of the Month” that incorporates seasonal ingredients, to add to the fun. Extremities aside, though, if you’re looking for the taco with the freshest ingredients and best presentation, Torchy’s definitely wins that battle. However, if price is your concern, Fuego would always be the better bet. You can score two of the best breakfast tacos there for a total of $3.50, and even the most deluxe taco there barely peaks $5. More bang for your buck, but it’s no question that the ingredients do not quite possess the freshness that they do at Torchy’s. Consider Fuego tacos to be more beautiful on the inside than the outside, although still an appealing sight in any shape or form.
But what about that queso?
To me, a restaurant’s queso is what really makes or breaks them — luckily, Torchy’s and Fuego carry some of the best. The queso at Torchy’s obviously holds a little more pizazz, with their signature Diablo Sauce, that heavenly glob of guac buried in the middle of it and topped off with fresh cilantro. It is definitely the more photogenic queso, but don’t let the appearance sway your opinion. Although Torchy’s queso is rich, cheesy and packed with different flavors, there is no denying the addictive qualities of Fuego’s queso. It holds the consistency of molten lava — it’s smooth, gooey and would taste good on just about anything with that unique, unmistakable texture. I know most will disagree with me, but I personally prefer Fuego’s queso to Torchy’s almost any day.
In my opinion, both Torchy’s and Fuego are equally appealing in their own ways. I typically choose between the two based on the occasion — a drunken midnight snack always calls for Fuego, while Torchy’s remains ideal for a tasty sit-down brunch. Regardless, both of these restaurants are two of the best in town and I’d highly recommend either one to everybody looking to take their tastebuds on an adventure.
Featured image by Claire Hansen.