Situated in a busy strip shopping center between a burger joint and a pizzeria, Aye! Toro Tacos & Tequila has hit its stride after just one year of business in Holly Springs.
From the outside, you might be fooled into thinking the spot holds a small, jewel-box sized dining room. But upon entering, you’ll find a spacious eatery with a high ceiling and plenty of space to accommodate anyone seeking first-rate Mexican cuisine.
The restaurant’s original location is in Sanford, NC, but more recently it branched out to Holly Springs and Wilmington. Consider it an informal, full-service outpost with a friendly, efficient staff.
“We are really pleased that business has been good since we opened, and we’re getting busier all the time,” says General Manager Alfonso Llamas, who hails from Mexico.
Locally sourced ingredients convey a commitment to freshness and agricultural sustainability.
An extensive menu features an impressive array of enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, fajitas, salads, seafood selections, and more.
Once orders are placed, it doesn’t take long for piping-hot food to emerge from the kitchen.
“The tacos are definitely the most popular menu items,” Llamas says. “We have excellent fajitas as well.”
Start your meal with some pork belly bites, Mexican street corn, or quechorizo (chorizo and cheese dip served warm). Tableside-prepared guacamole is available on the weekends, and it’s well worth the price of admission.
Tacos range from straightforward grilled chicken to the more extraordinary quesabirria style stuffed with shredded beef barbacoa, cilantro, cheese, and onions. For a surefire winning option, try the Toro tacos featuring chorizo and carnitas along with onions, cilantro, and fresh guacamole.
Among the half-dozen satisfying burritos, order the overstuffed California, which is filled with your choice of steak or chicken, beans, cheese, grilled onions, and sour cream. It’s crowned with a tasty mole sauce, queso, and pico de gallo.
If you’re in the mood for fajitas, you can’t go wrong with the standard variety, or you can shake things up with Texas-style comprising chicken, steak, and shrimp with grilled onions, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers. The dish is served with sour cream, salad, rice and beans, and it’s plenty of food for two people or leftovers for another meal.
Shrimp cocktail fans will find much to savor with the Aye! Toro version, which involves house-made cocktail sauce brimming with crustaceans. Let’s just say it’s one of the best we’ve sampled in recent memory.
Prefer vegetarian? Check out the grilled quesadilla loca pervaded with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and nopales (also known as prickly pear). Then there’s the Perez plate featuring a refried bean burrito, a cheese enchilada, and a cheese quesadilla.
More adventurous diners will appreciate the mojarra frita, which translates to whole fried tilapia served with cucumber, lime slices, avocado salad, rice, and flour tortillas. Or perhaps the menudo, a traditional Mexican soup made with tripe (beef stomach) in a red chili pepper-infused broth.
Pro tip: Ask your server for a side of scratch-made mango habanero sauce to add to your entrée.
If you’re looking for something sweet to top off the meal, choose from among tres leches cake, traditional flan, churros, or the molten chocolate cake.
Nothing goes better with Mexican food than a margarita, mojito, or cerveza, and Aye! Toro has all the bases covered. “The house margarita is the top seller,” Llamas says with a smile.
A large, well-stocked bar features Mexican and domestic beer on tap and in bottles. In addition, there are curated varieties of tequila and mescal, whiskey, vodka, and other spirits. White and red wine is available by the glass or bottle.
Glass bottles of Jarritos brand Mexican soft drink are available in nearly a dozen flavors.
Décor at the restaurant integrates a polished cement floor, vibrant red walls with floor-to-ceiling murals, and strings of lights hanging from the ceiling. An assortment of four-top tables is interspersed among rows of high-back banquettes.
Aye! Toro is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner plus weekend brunch. Reservations are accepted, but only on weekdays.
Aye! Toro Tacos & Tequila
Sunset Lake Commons
303 Matthews Drive, Holly Springs
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