In my world of Mexican food, I loves my casual taquerias. Places like Los Cuates or Taqueria El Toro float my boat pretty well. And then you have more upscale spots like Jose & Sons or Centro. But what if you came up with a Mexican restaurant that was right in the middle? A casual spot with more authentic and higher quality Mexican eats? Well in my mind that’s where Virgil’s Original Taqueria sits. Run by the same culinary team manning Linus & Peppers across the way, Virgil’s straddles the line between quick casual and upscale Mexican in a good way. Read on to find out more!
When you first enter Virgil’s Original Taqueria you notice the immediate quirkiness of the spot. It’s a longish narrow space but packed with plenty of seating. Front dining area has greenery covering the wall, a couple of funky hand-shaped chairs sit near the window. In the middle section you’ve got the open kitchen with seating at a counter. And in the back, the rest rooms with a bright “el bano” (bathroom in Spanish) neon sign lighting the way. It’s a small space but tightly packed with chairs and tables to maximize space.
I grab a seat at the kitchen counter for my early dinner. Thankfully the place is pretty empty so I can take my time ordering off the small menu. About eight apps, eight tacos, four plates and some sides for your eats. Cocktails, beer, wine and tequila for your adult bevvies along with some aqua frescas. I decide to go with my favorite carnitas taco along with some chilaquiles for my main.
It’s a lot of fun sitting at the kitchen bar and you can watch your food getting made and chat with the staff if it’s not too busy. My taco come out first and it’s on about an 8″ flour tortilla, griddled and with a good portion of carnitas meat. Some onion, cilantro and a creamy salsa macha on top. With a squeeze of lime, the carnitas taco is filling and tasty with a nice seared, crispy edge to the meat. At $4 a pop, the tacos at Virgil’s Original Taqueria are not cheap but filling and of high quality ingredients.
My plate of chilaquiles is next and it’s a plate of fried tortilla chips, cheese, onion, crema, fried egg and cilantro. It’s my first time doing chilaquiles and it’s a bit different. The chips are crispy but softened a bit with the sauces. You’re supposed to break the egg yolk on top and mix the ingredients a bit but I’m noshing on different components of the dish. Given it’s vegetarian origins, it’s still a very hearty dish with lots of flavor and substance but probably not my favorite! Your mileage may vary, especially if you’ve been out drinking a bit…
But all in all I was pretty impressed with Virgil’s Original Taqueria. It’s has the presence and food of a higher end Mexican restaurant with the casual feel and prices of a quick-casual spot. Add in a nice selection of adult bevvies and I’m thinking that Centro may have a little competition now! I do have to work through the menu a bit more but given the overall track record of Linus & Peppers I’m optimistic that Virgil’s should hold its own over time. So check em out the next time you’re hungry in downtown Raleigh and looking for some good Mexican. I’m pretty sure they will keep you happy and humming along…
126 S Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
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