dishes from taqueria morita in the cortex innovation district in the central west end photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Taqueria Morita in the Central West End

The permanent home for Take Root Hospitality’s pop-up concept, Taqueria Morita, will open on Thursday, April 4, at 4239 Duncan Ave. in the Cortex Innovation District in the Central West End.

The 4,000-square-foot space was formerly a Wasabi and was re-worked by Space Architects to incorporate light wood accents, bright colors and a mural by Shannon Levin from Toky branding and design on one wall, the same artist who also came up with the restaurant’s branding identity. The dining room seats 80 inside and the patio seats another 40 guests.

Taqueria Morita’s menu is helmed by Take Root Hospitality partner and culinary director Aaron Martinez. “I’ve never done a Mexican restaurant menu before Taqueria Morita. It’s not precious; I just want it to be flavorful and not too complicated. I want food you get on a beach on Tulum or Sonora – something approachable,” Martinez said. “Everything about this restaurant, from the concept to the menu offferings and the vibe, is a true labor of love," he said.

The restaurant will have lunch and dinner services with more quick, casual options at lunchtime such as chicken tortas or rice bowls topped with a mushroom barbacoa. Shareable appetizers like the black bean and chihuahua cheese empanadas served with a fruity cascabel chile salsa or the crispy taquitos stuffed with chorizo and potato, topped with cilantro cream and queso fresco will pair perfectly with the restaurant’s new drink offerings.

Take Root Hospitality beverage director Leila Miller designed the menu. Look for agua frescas in a range of flavors from tamarind-pineapple to coconut-horchata, which make for refreshing nonalcoholic drinks. (You can always opt for the addition of a spirit to any of these.) The drinks menu highlights agave spirit cocktails on draft like a Paloma, the signature MargMorita and mezcal margarita. Other tropical inspiration can be found too like in the passion fruit sour made with mezcal, bacanora, melon and banana liqueurs and fresh passion fruit juice. Best of all, from 3 to 6 p.m. they’re making happy hour a priority, offering $5 draft beers, $8 draft margaritas and Palomas, $8 wine and a range of snacks, including puffed chicharrons with a chile-onion dip.

At night, look for their signature tacos like the grilled oyster mushroom tacos topped with epozote cream, goat cheese and peanut salsa macha — a fiery, oil-based sauce made with guajillo, ancho and arbol chiles. Also on the menu are the pork tacos, with the meat cooked in its own fat, carnitas-style, and flavored with a serrano vinegar and fresh pineapple just before service.

Shareable, large-format options will be available like a pork belly chicharron for two. On the lighter side, look for small plates like tuna crudo, cauliflower ceviche tostada or the ceviche; a recent striped bass version was served with a blackened jalapeno and charred onion salsa negro and finished with spicy habanero oil. Their coconut tres leches cake, which was a cool and tropical treat in the summertime on the pop-up patio space, makes its return served with almond cremosa, which has a hint of white chocolate and burnt cinnamon served with rhubarb.

Taqueria Morita will be open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant does not take reservations.