Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, June 09, 2023 — Houston, TX

Velvet Taco brings eclectic fare from Dallas to the Heights


By Denise Lee     4/18/16 10:23pm

With taco trucks, restaurants, pop-ups, shacks and every other imaginable form of taco-selling establishment scattered throughout Houston, Velvet Taco stands out among the bunch as a quirky and unique restaurant in the Heights. Originating in the Dallas area, though Velvet Taco is not a unique Houston establishment, it has gained quite a cult-like following. Upon arriving on Washington Street, hot pink and lime green tiled walls outside the building beckon you inside the casual, cozy interior of the restaurant. A huge ceiling-to-floor menu fills up the wall beside the cash register allowing you to agonize over your order from the choices that are neatly divided into categories based on filling: chicken, beef, veggie, pork, egg and sides.

Upon first entering Velvet Taco I was skeptical; it seemed like a pricier version of the classic, beloved Torchy’s Tacos, and why would I spent more than $5 on a taco when I could increase my waistline for much less elsewhere? I was quickly proven wrong, as the menu had a diverse selection for everyone, based on dietary preferences or otherwise. Accompanied by a group of friends that included a vegetarian, a carnivore and a picky eater, Velvet Taco’s expansive menu proved to serve all palates.

Some of the most popular meat options are the spicy tikka chicken and the shrimp and grits. The tikka chicken is a soft, pillowy flour tortilla supporting two full strips of hot, juicy chicken tenders massaged with tikka masala sauce cushioned by creamy, buttered basmati rice and sprinkled with some Thai basil on top. Impressively, the tikka chicken was able to retain its crispiness, even with all the sauce. The spices from the pepper sauce added a nice initial kick that was balanced by the buttery rice. The shrimp and grits taco metaphorically blew my mind — not only was the blackened shrimp flavorful and perfectly juicy, but the geniuses behind Velvet Taco took pepper jack cheese grits and fried it into a ball to reduce the mess from taco eating and to increase tastiness.

Other popular options include the falafel taco, which is great for those watching carb intake, as the crispy balls of falafel, avocado, tomato and arugula are wrapped in lettuce instead of a traditional tortilla. The hearty breakfast tacos, with barbacoa brisket and egg frittata, are filling enough to function as part of a lunch or dinner. The sides are also excellent, especially the crispy tater tots (like the ones from your elementary school cafeteria) that are fancied up with bits of herb goat cheese, smoked cheddar, bacon and avocado crema drizzled on top, and generously smothered with chili butter. In addition, a fried egg rests gently on top of this delicate structure, oozing a perfectly runny, bright yellow yolk with the poke of a fork.

Two to three tacos should be more than enough to fill you up, but if you’re especially hungry, get some tater tots, red curry coconut queso or corn on the side to tide you over until your next meal. In all its fun quirkiness, Velvet Taco also has a great deal on Monday nights: The backdoor chicken order, which includes a full rotisserie chicken (this is not a typo!!!), six corn tortillas and sides of Korean barbeque sauce and Mexican-style corn, is half off for $10 on Monday nights.

Tacos are a quintessential part of any college student’s diet, and while Velvet Taco may lean toward the pricier side, their fun, unique offerings are well worth it. Being able to globe-trot your way through the menu’s diversity, sampling the made-from-scratch in-house tortillas, and a dazzling presentation of food that’s perfect for your food photography addiction will make your trip well worth it.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 4/18/23 11:44pm
Review: ‘Suzume’ is a thrilling, endearing, and at times dark ode to Japan

Makoto Shinkai clearly has a specialty — the “Your Name” and “Weathering With You” director is often said to make the same movie over and over again. It’s true that the three most recent entries in his filmography have all been fantastical, coming-of-age melodramas centered around some sort of ecological disaster, but  there’s nothing wrong with that. Audiences know what they’re getting with a Shinkai film: gorgeously-rendered anime vistas, strong female leads and an emotionally-charged storyline guaranteed to make viewers feel something. While it doesn’t reach the poignancy of “Your Name,” Shinkai’s newest film “Suzume” is one of the highlights in his œuvre.

A&E 4/18/23 11:43pm
Review: IVE embraces confidence on 'I’ve IVE’

After an incredibly successful debut year in 2022, IVE released their debut album “I’ve IVE” to the excitement of fans around the world. Last year, IVE put out two single albums, which are shorter, two to three track projects within K-pop. The sampling of Gloria Gaynor’s classic track “I Will Survive” in “After LIKE” and the moodier sound of “LOVE DIVE” show two distinct sides of the group that are expanded upon in their debut full-length release.

A&E 4/18/23 11:43pm
Review: Nicolas Cage as Dracula is a national treasure

“Renfield” is a 2023 comedy-horror film centering Nicolas Cage as Dracula and Nicolas Hoult as Renfield, Dracula’s loyal assistant. My comments on this movie should be prefaced by an acknowledgment of my bias; I absolutely adore Nicolas Cage as an actor. I could watch Mr. Cage do nothing but down an entire Subway Italian without him uttering a word and I would be absolutely enthralled, clinging to the edge of my seat. The subtle facial expressions, the charming yet hungry eyes, and the absolute Adonis of a body that Nicolas Cage possesses could make any film connoisseur faint at just a glimpse. Even taking into consideration my love for Cage’s acting in both his amazing and amazingly terrible works, “Renfield” is another absolute banger of a movie on nearly every level.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.