Ricos Tacos review

Ricos' mood-lifting mural.
Ricos' mood-lifting mural. Photo: Nikki To

15 Meagher St Chippendale, NSW 2008

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Opening hours Thu-Sun 8am-1pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard

Gee, a lot of Mexican restaurants have opened in Sydney recently. It seems as if there's a flashy new tequila bar or taqueria chasing my hard-earned every week: "Book now for Potts Point's biggest collection of mezcals!" "Don't miss Manly's best gluten-free tostada!" "Hurry to reserve your seat for Bondi's only margarita made in a vintage sombrero!" Okay, I made the last one up, but many of these joints are purely in it for the money: tortillas are easy to fill with cheap guacamole and sell for an inflated price.

Case in point is the quesabirria, a quesadilla-taco hybrid loaded with more cheese than a slice of 3am pizza. Fuelled by the dish's strange popularity on TikTok, birria joints are now splattered across Sydney like salsa stains on a just-laundered shirt.

Through all the grey-green avocado, however, some real-deal Mexican is emerging. Newtown's Maiz and Redfern's Itacate both opened at the beginning of last year and view authenticity as a competitive sport; Itacate's tamales are particularly excellent. Meanwhile, if you're after boisterous tacos throbbing with flavour and heat, you might consider joining the queue at Ricos.

Chorizo and potato breakfast taco.
Chorizo and potato breakfast taco. Photo: Nikki To

Toby Wilson is the guy behind this Chippendale diner and, through multiple trips to Mexico over the past seven years, the former barista has been perfecting his market-fresh salsas. After developing a cult following for his tacos at Waterloo's George Hotel, Wilson opened Ricos for sit-down dining in November.

The short menu lists seven tacos across breakfast and lunch, plus a few hefty tortas (a type of messy Mexican sandwich) and lighter snacks.

Ordering the chipotle-spiced hash brown ($4) is non-negotiable: it's enlivened by a fermented chilli salsa bright with tomatillos and lime juice, so you almost feel healthy while eating deep-fried potato. Likewise a battered flathead torta ($16) brimming with coriander and salted cabbage.

If you're after boisterous tacos throbbing with flavour and heat, consider joining the queue at Ricos.

The potato and greens taco ($6) might actually be nutritious, though. Inspired by the bubble-and-squeak that Wilson's British parents used to cook for him, the breakfast snack sports a yolky hard-boiled egg atop silverbeet, leek and kale fried in fiery chipotle oil. And a very good morning to you, too.

Cold brew ($5) and filter coffee ($4) are both on hand for an extra jolt, although latte drinkers may be put out by the lack of an espresso machine.

Similarly, crockery fans shouldn't expect fancy tableware. Tacos are served à la food truck – that is, on paper plates.

The hash brown with chipotle salt and salsa is a must-order.
The hash brown with chipotle salt and salsa is a must-order. Photo: Rhett Wyman

When the lunch menu takes over at 11am, it's all about the beefy charms of a barbacoa taco ($6) starring chuck steak simmered in a guajillo chilli-heavy sauce.

Vegetarians are catered to with a fried cauliflower taco ($6) invigorated by a salsa macha that's thick with garlic, ground almonds and sesame.

House-made chorizo buzzing with four types of chilli is a feature ingredient and you can smell its rich spices on approach to Ricos' curacao-blue door. Mexican chorizo is coarser than its cured Spanish counterpart, and here it's crisp-fried for topping thumb-thick pancakes ($16) or crumbled with cubes of potato for a punchy taco ($6) that pulses with cumin and cloves.

Battered flathead torta with coriander and salted cabbage.
Battered flathead torta with coriander and salted cabbage. Photo: Janie Barrett

Certainly, there are more comfortable places for brunch in Sydney. The tiny taqueria can go from empty to line-out-the-door full at the drop of a sausage crumb, and although the pink metal chairs look beaut against Ricos' mood-lifting wall art (love the smiling corn cobs and Coke bottle), they're not conducive to long catch-ups over coffee. Rather, this is a place designed to get you in and out in less than 20 minutes for under $20.

There's a good chance of encountering a queue at peak times, but by offering only counter service, the line moves fast. All items can be packaged to take away, and crunchy zucchini-flower quesadillas (two for $12) are the best self-contained option. Everything else is a three-serviette job.

Mexican is far from Sydney's most under-represented cuisine, but it has long been the most corrupted. The growth of claggy enchilada chains isn't likely to ease, but at least a new movement of proper Mexican cooking is growing simultaneously. More eye-widening tortillas and tortas in every suburb, please.

Vibe: Laid-back neighbourhood diner for brunch on the go.

Go-to dish: Chorizo and potato breakfast taco ($6).

Cost: About $40 for two.

This review was originally published in Good Weekend magazine

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