A good taco can make your day better, but a great taco can turn your day upside down. And during the off-season, there’s no better place to go for tacos than the Little House Cafe in Vineyard Haven on a Thursday night. On my radar for years, Taco Thursday somehow never made it onto my calendar. Recently, though, I wrote it in my day planner and set up a taco dinner date with a friend — Taco Night would happen, no matter what.
As we walked in, I saw Jen Zern, the manager at Little House Cafe but also one of the first people I met on the Island seven years ago. Her lovely welcome kicked off the delicious night. Once you’re seated and the taco menu arrives, you’ll have a hard time trying to order. Granted, Little House Cafe is known for its incredible Crispy Fish Tacos with salsa fresca, avocado, shaved green cabbage with lime, and a piquant white sauce, but there’s so much more to try. Seven taco varieties are offered, including:
- Beef Tenderloin Tacos (2 for $18) with chermoula sauce, red cabbage slaw, pickled onion, and harissa aioli on flour tortillas;
- Honey-Lime Glazed Chicken Tacos (3 for $15) with roasted corn salsa, avocado cream, pickled jalapeños, and queso blanco on soft corn tortillas;
- Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos (2 for $13.50) with black bean salsa, crumbled goat cheese, avocado, and chipotle cream on flour tortillas.
The descriptive menu almost prepares you for the gorgeous food that arrives at your table, but not entirely. When the tacos are served, you’re hit with vibrant colors that shine through the plating. The aroma of the freshly cooked meats and vegetables entices you to stop eating the made-to-order guacamole ($8.50) with warm chips you started with, and dedicate valuable time to enjoying the tacos. Flavors burst in your mouth with that first bite, and you smile across the table at your taco-loving friend. The Beef Tenderloin Tacos were my favorite; tender beef with a blend of sauces like chermoula and harissa make this a cultural adventure. It’s like you’ve traveled to somewhere between Morocco and Tunisia, all in one taco bite.
That being said, you can never go wrong with chicken tacos, but don’t expect grilled or pulled chicken tacos doused in some random spicy sweet sauce. At Little House, these are moist chicken pieces marinated in a honey lime dressing and cooked to order, topped with a sweet, charred corn salsa and an avocado cream that you’ll want to order a bowl of to take home. It’s a chicken taco that’s elevated to the next level.
Then there’s a taco that’s actually a lettuce wrap: the Tofu
Satay Lettuce Wrap ($14). Fresh butter lettuce serves as the wrap, topped with warm jasmine rice, Asian vegetable salad, perfectly crisp tofu, all drenched in peanut sauce, sriracha, and a sprinkle of toasted peanuts. It’s a bit tough to eat by hand, since it’s a tower of delicious ingredients; I quickly secured a knife and fork and dug in. The peanut sauce brings it all together, and the warm, perfectly cooked jasmine rice makes it a meal. To wash this all down, Little House Cafe serves up housemade sangria, and sells it by the glass ($11).
If you don’t like tacos — and if you don’t, I assume you stopped reading a while ago — Little House makes you happy with all the other options offered on the menu. (Can we talk about you not liking tacos? Can you email me and tell me why? I can’t believe this notion. Then again, I hate rice pudding, and people seem to love that mush. Oh well, more tacos for me, more rice pudding for you.)
What to get other than tacos? There are so many options — whether it’s Mussels ($14) in a shallot white wine sauce with herb aioli and croutons, or Unagi Glazed Salmon Skewers ($26) with steamed rice, baby bok choy in a warm soy dressing, and a carrot ginger purée. On a cold night, try the Red Thai Curry Chicken Kebabs ($24) with vegetables simmered in a coconut lime sauce, served over jasmine rice. You do have options if you’d like to accompany your taco-loving friends to Taco Night at the Little House Cafe. But please, I urge you to try their tacos, and I think (I know) you’ll change your mind and become a taco lover too.
Want to give Taco Night a try? It’s every Thursday from 4:30 until 8:30 pm through June at the Little House Cafe in Vineyard Haven.