Meat lovers, pescatarians and vegetarians alike can certainly find something to love at Taco 185, the newest Friendly Ghost restaurant concept from the Jon Katz/Chef Jonny Miller team that brought Burger Boss to kosher-keepers in the region this past spring. Taco 185’s signature Baja fish tacos, short-rib tacos and veggie bowl have garnered rave reviews online, and if the gobble rate in my own household is any indication, the restaurant will do very, very well.
This is just the latest shared delivery venture for restaurateur Katz, who has worked in ballpark concessions, restaurants and the event/ballpark suite catering industries for almost two decades, along with Chef Jonny Miller, who has worked as a local caterer and private chef, for the past 15 years. Friendly Ghost, their kosher rendering of a cloud or ghost kitchen, operates entirely on a catering and delivery model. The same Englewood-based team also operates Burger Boss, and Sizzle and Smoke Catering. Their team also delivered high-end catered Pesach meals as “Bistro” on DoorDash.
Taco 185 delivers real taqueria fare, with authentic flavors, tastes and spices generally not available in the kosher-keeping community, except for possibly Chef Katsuji Tanabe’s MexiKosher in Los Angeles, which made an appearance on the East Coast within the last several years. What was the inspiration for the team to take on tacos? “We wanted to do something fun and unique, that offered a sandbox to explore all different types of new flavors,” Katz told The Jewish Link.
“A taqueria was very exciting to us since the kosher world just hasn’t historically had many options for Mexican food, let alone great Mexican food. We wanted Taco 185 to offer a really well-rounded and authentic selection of Mexican street food favorites. At the same time, of course Jonny brought his own spin to our menu, especially with brisket, which is our signature across restaurant concepts,” Katz said.
One of the most fascinating dishes is the cod-based (not tilapia!) Baja fish tacos, which Chef Miller considers one of the restaurant’s flagship offerings. “The fish tacos were particularly important to me to get right because it was actually the first dish that I tried to perfect when I first started cooking seriously. Making the batter just right took a lot of trial and error and experimenting until I was satisfied with the consistency of the batter on the fish. It was a real hit with my catering clients, but we worked more on perfecting our recipe once we started planning the Taco 185 launch, and I feel so proud that we’ve really nailed it. It’s far and away the fan favorite,” Miller told The Jewish Link.
While tilapia would be a more conventional and less expensive choice in a fish taco, the team wanted their fish taco to “stand out as a high-quality signature dish for our restaurant and that begins with selecting the right fish.” The breading is a house-made tempura with a mixture of seasonings and baking soda to make them lighter and more delicate. Beer is also used as the batter liquid to add flavor.
The fish taco comes with a “jitomate” sauce, a grilled tomato-based sauce with guajillo and arbol peppers to give it a little kick. (Pro tip: Squeezing some lime over the sauce also adds a little something extra to the already full flavors.)
I loaded my fish taco with a generous scoop of Chef Miller’s memorable mango and red cabbage slaw. “Since fish is a delicate protein, I wanted to make sure to balance that with a lighter slaw to compliment it, which is why I chose to use mangos. It really helps bring out the natural sweetness of the fish itself,” he said.
Another major fan favorite is the short-rib taco, served with a julienne of mildly piquant sauteed red jalapeños and white onions, with perfectly ripened, thinly sliced avocados, served on a corn tortilla. The melt-in-your mouth beef paired beautifully with the vegetables, and the bite was rendered even better when fully loaded with Tacos 185’s signature pico de gallo, guacamole and Tofutti sour cream. “I like to use a healthy amount of fresh cilantro which is what really brings the two condiments [pico de gallo and guacamole] to life, in my opinion. We make both of them daily to keep the flavors fresh and full,” said Miller.
I also enjoyed the brisket nachos, which came deconstructed to prevent the chips from getting soggy, certainly takeout’s worst possible outcome. However, the brightly colored tri-color chips (Mexico’s national colors of red, green and white) were almost entirely scarfed by my kids before I had a chance to dress them. Instead, my husband and I tasted the brisket alone, and found it contained Mexican spices even though it is reminiscent of Burger Boss’s amazing and soft slow-smoked brisket. “The Mexican brisket sauce is actually similar to the jitomate sauce with a few added seasonings like freshly squeezed limes, and chipotle chiles for a slight smoky aftertaste,” said Miller.
For me, the biggest victory of Taco 185 was the most perfect vegetarian taco salad I’ve ever eaten. It’s literally my dream lunch. For me, the balance of flavors on the cumin-spiced grilled veggies complemented perfectly cooked black beans and white long-grain rice, and it was served in one of those magnificent edible fried taco bowls. The burrito bowl called out for a generous dollop of pico de gallo for the beans and rice, but needed no other augmentation.
Those who would like to enjoy the beans and rice along with Mexican brisket are urged to order the brisket burrito, which was a great marriage of the flavors of the brisket nachos and the veggie bowl, combined in a flour tortilla. For those looking for something a little more decadent, try the chimichanga, a fried version of the burrito. I also enjoyed the chicken taquitos and the chicken tacos and found them flavorful and fun, but from my end, if you’re looking for something unique from Tacos 185, go for the fish, short ribs or brisket. For chicken lovers, definitely try the mango habanero wings, and I am told the Mexican street corn is grilled, topped with a seasoned aioli and house-made spice mix including chili powder and chipotle. My next order will also include the carne asada tacos, which include Mexican-style marinated and seared steak.
For those looking to lighten up their calorie load and still get all the great taco flavors from Taco 185, make sure to try the tacos in a lettuce shell.
Like Burger Boss, Taco 185 delivers on specially designated dates to kosher foodies in West Orange, Livingston, Highland Park and Westchester, so follow them on Facebook or Instagram to get their schedule.
Taco 185 is certified kosher by the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County. To order online visit taco185.com, UberEats or DoorDash, or visit Taco 185 on Facebook and Instagram. Catering options are also available.
By Elizabeth Kratz