Helen Schwab

Dining Review: RuRu’s nicely niched in Myers Park

Calamari with crunch and a sweet-hot sauce and smoked aioli.
Calamari with crunch and a sweet-hot sauce and smoked aioli. HELEN SCHWAB

Sitting on the spacious patio at RuRu’s, on the back side of the historically handsome Reynolds-Gourmajenko House, is a simple pleasure on these spring nights.

And the food matches the aesthetic: relaxed and simple with a mild twist or two; well-priced, for the most part; and served in the super-accommodating way that works best in Myers Park. Plus: Tequila.

No wonder longtime restaurateur Martin Sprock’s new venture seems to have been well-populated since opening.

Nine variations on tacos sport tender, housemade flour tortillas (bravo!) and range from straightforward (grilled chicken, salsa, smoked aioli) to less-so (Korean-barbecue-flavored skirt steak with red cabbage).

Speaking of which: Those, like me, who notice such things will see that dishes are named (as at Moe’s, the fast-casual chain Sprock co-founded in 2000) for movie lines and characters, aiming at clever. A few are, where they’re a play on the dish (like the tofu taco named “That’s Not Snowflake,” from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”). Most aren’t, with a few I’d call unfortunate, and one or two offensive – even if you’re a fan of John Hughes or “American Pie.”

That skirt steak, meanwhile, was truly excellent (tender and flavorful, set off perfectly with crema) on one visit, mediocre (fatty and tough) on another.

There’s some heat to the spicy slaw that comes in the pork carnitas taco and the combo also include some crumbled, unmentioned-by-the-menu chicharrones, or pork rinds, for crunch: a nice touch.

Those good tortillas arrive with smallish fajita entrees, with full-bodied rice, black beans with a bit of queso fresco, and a lot of sour cream. A shrimp fajita plate produced eight half-dollar-sized shrimp, a bit overcooked; go instead with nicely chargrilled chunks of chicken or beef.

Chips arrive only if you order something to dip them in, and salsa/guacamole/queso variations are the focus of the appetizer list. Salsa can vary in heat, according to a server who warned us it was “pretty hot tonight.” Bravo, I say, to the heat, but not to the inconsistency.

Rice bowls (organic brown), burritos and salads in two sizes with optional proteins, round out main-dish offerings.

Iron gates, sconces and paintings occasionally interrupt creamy walls amid rough-hewn woodwork in the circa-’20s Tuscan Revival structure. It’s a quiet design, taking advantage of original work (repeating the half-round window theme in the dining-room-to-patio transition, for example).

A fire pit’s given way to a fountain outside now, and servers in black and denim bustle and flow, ferrying lots of the range of house margaritas, along with other, mostly sweet cocktails and several local beers on draft.

I’m betting we’ll see more RuRus.

Review

RuRu’s

1/2

Mexican fare in Myers Park.

Food: 1/2

Service:

Atmosphere:

715 Providence Road; 704-332-7933; www.rurustacos.com.

HITS: Smart taco prices, attentive service and a cool vibe in a handsome space.

MISSES: Fatty pieces in a skirt-steak taco, overcooked shrimp in one.

PRICES: $4-$4.25 per taco; $9.50-$17.50 for main dishes.

HOURS: Kitchen open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday; no reservations taken.

INSPECTION SCORE: 90.5 April 20.

= excellent; = good;= fair;= poor

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