Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – When Arif Rizvi and a partner opened One Taco Two Taco on Sunset Boulevard in Lexington last year, he knew he wanted to provide something different than the regular Tex-Mex restaurant experience that has popped up on every corner of our area over the last 25 to 30 years. Rizvi, who is actually a well-educated businessman who had worked in the corporate world, has always had a passion and knack for cooking. His dream was to bring what he describes as a “California Taco” experience to Lexington using only the freshest ingredients to turn out delicious food of the highest quality. He also wanted to do that in an environment that is a cut above the normal sombrero decorated, Mariachi band hosting, red, white, and green places, that pump out loads of smothered refried beans and heaps of supposedly authentic queso, which is really just melted white American cheese with a few chopped jalapenos added in.
Recently, he invited Angelica Iglesias and I over for lunch and I can truly say it was worth the time to go! Before we went, we told him we would be honest, but fair, and that I had never actually been to an eatery to do a review where I had no criticism at all. I can now say I have; One Taco Two Taco is superb in every aspect.
Although Rizvi’s education is in business, his passion is as a chef. He never attended culinary school; instead he’s studied the craft to the point that he’s become an expert. Over time, he’s spent countless hours collaborating with a few associates to develop a menu un-like any I’ve ever experienced. It’s both fresh, bright, and delicious; as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds.
When you enter One Taco Two Taco, you’re quickly greeted by the super-friendly staff, and shown to a seat. There are tables with chairs, communal tables with seating on long benches, and booths. All are made of attractive dark woods that really complement the look and add to the ambiance.
There’s also a well-stocked, attractive bar to one side that features comfortable seating. It has some of the best, top shelf brands of tequila and liquors, a good quality and selection of house brands, and a great selection of domestic and imported beers, both draft and bottled, as well. There are also various red and white wines by the glass or bottle. They also have an extensive custom cocktail menu to select from that has something for the taste of both the ladies and men.
The décor is distinctly different than most of our area’s Tex-Mex eateries. It’s a bit more upscale, very clean, and the layout is orderly and well thought out. The servers quickly approach your table for your drink order, deliver a one page, one-sided menu, plus another single page of daily specials that change regularly. Each table also has a bar menu that’s available should you choose to imbibe. The regular drink menu includes all Coke products and a great iced tea as well.
Your server spends a few seconds explaining the menu’s concept if it’s your first visit. In truth, most of the menu is based on small bites. There’s a good variety of interesting combinations, all made with the ultra-fresh ingredients that are hand selected by Rizvi several times a week at the SC State Farmer’s Market, and much more.
All tacos come on a delightfully fresh flour tortilla, no hard shells here at all, and there are choices of fillings that include seafood, chicken, steak, and even a vegetarian option. There are also rice bowls that feature a Spanish rice with multiple toppings available, burritos, wraps, quesadillas, chimichangas, and salads. There’s also a dessert menu that has several options to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The starters include items like carne asada fries. That's a delicious pile of French fried potatoes topped with flamed grilled Angus steak, a fresh, house made pico, sour cream, and melted cheese. It has a little heat on the backend of each bite that was plenty for me without reaching for the hot sauce, and I usually like things very hot! The steak on these was cooked to perfection, no easy feat when your grilling meats are thinly sliced. The seasoning was perfect as well.
The nachos are piled high with some of the best brisket I’ve ever tasted. Rizvi, and his head chef Victor, slow roast that at a mere 180° for 12 hours. Then it’s allowed to sit overnight refrigerated so that the flavors can meld. It’s topped with melted cheese, jalapenos, fresh onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, and refried beans. There’s also the option of trading the beef for chicken on these. It’s absolutely delicious, and if you’re not sharing, it’s a meal all by itself!
As you’d expect, there’s also a fresh made guacamole, a salsa option, a king queso that’s piled high with a number of wonderful toppings like cilantro and cotija cheese, and several app combos too.
During our visit, we tried a number of the small tacos of various types. We asked that the kitchen cut them in half so that we could share a real tasting, which they gladly did. Each one was exceptional, bright, and the ingredients were obviously fresh. The cilantro was a vibrant green, not wilted, the knife cuts of the onions and tomatoes were perfect so that everything was consistent in size, and the flavors were spot on. There’s not a canned product in the place.
We enjoyed the surf and turf that had some small shrimp, well deveined, and some more of that perfectly cooked steak. We also tried the Cauli Fungl, which is a taco that features sautéed cauliflower with mushrooms, a cumin / garlic spice rub, and pico topped with a Habanero aioli. This is the vegetarian option I mentioned, and it was so good I didn’t notice the absence of the meat. The aioli is delicious, and once again, as a person who normally adds hot sauce to everything, I didn’t feel the need to reach for the bottle of Cholula that was on each table.
We also enjoyed the pescado taco, a pan seared fish topped with thinly sliced cabbage, pico, and an unbelievable avocado crème. We rounded out our tasting with the west coast chicken taco, a mix of expertly grilled chicken, a jack cheese blend, shredded lettuce, pico, and a cilantro crème that was absolutely yummy! In all of these, the heat was balanced so that you could tell it was there without it blowing your head off.
Several times a week, Rizvi and his head chef meet to decide on the specials based on what’s fresh and available. When we visited, there was a ceviche and several other options on that menu. They also use these meetings to develop new flavors and menu items so that the selection doesn’t get old.
After we’d tried a bit of just about everything, Rizvi insisted we try the Xango cheesecake. This is a house made cheesecake, covered with an exceptional coating, fried, and then topped with a delicious ice cream, and freshly sliced strawberries. The breading stayed crisp, even with the addition of the ice cream, and the cheesecake was divine. All I can say is OMG; it was heavenly!
The bar menu is like everything else, over the top. There are a number of specialty cocktails and a large selection of Margaritas that can be had plain, or with a number of added flavors that include everything from strawberry and peach, to jalapeno, and chipotle. There’s even a prickly pear one if you’re feeling adventurous and would like to try something new.
Like the rest of the menu, the bar selections are very reasonably priced. There’s a $10 pitcher of Margaritas that’s actually made with a top-shelf brand tequila. Rizvi said he got a great buy on that particular brand and is passing the quality, and the savings, on to his customers.
As I said earlier, I couldn’t find one thing to criticize or complain about during our visit. Rizvi works the front of the house, ensuring that everyone gets the very best service and food. He said he is very selective in his hiring process so that his staff is both pleasant, efficient, and drama free. “I demand the best from my staff, but I also treat them as an asset, as professionals, because that’s what they area,” he said. “We have a low turnover rate on staff and that helps me to form relationships with them, and in turn they have a great relationship with our regular customers.”
Our server, Natalie Collins Rowell, started as a customer before she came on as a part of the staff. If she’s an example of the employees as a whole, they all are stellar. She was both friendly and efficient without being too much of a busybody or in the way. She has a great personality and you could tell that she enjoyed her job. Before we ever asked, we had extra napkins, our drinks were kept full, and the table was bussed as we emptied our plates.
One Taco Two taco is a definite yes on my list of recommended places to eat. A couple could easily get in and out for lunch in less than an hour, and with a check for around $20 to $25; very reasonable indeed for the quality of the product you receive. I will definitely be back, and Angelica is already planning a trip with her dad.
One Taco Two Taco is located in a small strip center at 5225 Sunset Blvd in Lexington. This is just across the street from the new Lowe’s Foods. Their hours are 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. most days, and they stay open until 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They can be reached by telephone at (803) 520-7715 and they’re on Facebook at www.facebook.com/onetacotwotaco.