Taco Standing

Taco Standing

Milford’s Don Rene Taqueria says its tacos “must be considered in any discussion of our state’s best.” Challenge accepted.

This small restaurant along the Milford Green felt spare and open, with moody dark tables and leisurely ceiling fans. It doesn’t have a liquor license, so diners are encouraged to BYOB. As for service, the word “alacrity” doesn’t begin to cover the experience. I’ve had more time-consuming meals at McDonald’s. I hasten to add that the wait staff, mostly young adults, were totally pleasant, well-informed and eager to offer suggestions.

Owner and head chef Ulises Jimenéz, who started as a busser and barback at Norwalk’s Barcelona before rising to head chef there, wanted to create a Nuevo Mexican menu anchored by the kind of dishes his mom used to make. During a recent stop, a couple of friends and I discovered punchy gourmet tacos, house-made from the tortillas up. I relished the Lamb Taco ($4.50) topped with mint yogurt and salsa roja—a winning blend of subtlety and fire—which paired well with the succulent Chicken Adobado ($4), marinated and topped with crema and queso fresco, and the Ribeye Carne Asada, topped with a mild green charred tomato sauce. One of my companions, a fan of Pork Pastor, was surprised by Don Rene’s rendition, topped with onion and grilled pineapple, but pleased just the same. (Other available fillings include shrimp, baja fish, beef birria and a pair of vegetarian options: roasted cauliflower and falafel.)

We also enjoyed an order of fresh and lively guacamole served with super crispy chips ($11), and my fears regarding a trio of Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeños stuffed with herbed queso ($5)—that they’d be too fatty or too spicy—proved unfounded. The crunchy stuffed peppers were mildly spiced, with the bacon and cheese providing just enough sass.

Corn bread is one of my favorite carbs, and Don Rene’s homemade triangles ($6)—infused with grilled corn and Pimenton butter and topped with cotija cheese—were a delight. The only disappointment was the Cheese Quesadilla ($8), which seemed rather bland; next time, I’ll probably go for the Ribeye ($15) or Chicken ($13). I was sorry not to have had room for the Yuca Frita with chipotle mayo ($6), the Shrimp Ceviche with avocado, tomato and cucumber ($11) or the Pear Salad with arugula, goat cheese, roasted beets and lemon vinaigrette ($8).

The dessert list was short and tended to put a twist on classics including warm, crunchy, cinnamon sugar-dusted churros dippable in chocolate and dulce de leche sauces. Our waiter informed us that he loves the ice cream-filled Dulce de Leche and Cappuccino truffles ($8), and while chocolate-covered ice cream is normally a weak spot for my friends and me, we decided instead to give the Flan de Coco ($8) a whirl. It turned out to be the crowning pleasure of our meal, coconutty and silky-smooth with a generous dressing of tropical fruit sauce.

Rather than the usual cocktail or glass of wine with dinner, which we’d have had to bring with us, we went with Don Rene’s “Aguas Naturales,” house-made potables in flavors of Passion Fruit, Hibiscus and Horchata ($4). That last one, based on a traditional riced and spiced concoction, was our favorite, hands down. It was the perfect palate cleanser and complement to the meal. When we return to order what we missed the first time, the Horchata will be back on the table.

As for the tacos, I’ve realized it’s impossible to verify their place among Connecticut’s best. But I can easily verify their place in a full and happy stomach.

Don Rene Taqueria
50 S Broad St, Milford (map)
Sun-Thurs 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm
(203) 283-9191

Written by Patricia Grandjean. Image 1, featuring the Beef Birria Taco, and image 2 featuring the Chips + Guacamole, sourced from @DonReneTaqueria. Image 3, featuring the Flan de Coco, photographed by Patricia Grandjean.

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