The crew behind the Badlander and the Golden Rose introduced a new bar to the corner of Broadway and Ryman last spring. It’s called Locals Only. The walls are packed with sporting gear and big screens, and the kitchen is on a charitable mission to support local nonprofits (see “Starters: Tacos for a cause at Locals Only,” July 6, 2017). La Mesa, as the food operation of Locals Only is known, features a self-described street-taco menu along with a handful of bar snacks.
The chips and queso are dressed up with a basket of tricolor (yellow, red and blue) corn chips. Accompanying them is a cup of queso with a texture less like traditional Tex-Mex queso and closer to the nacho cheese end of the spectrum, but with a lot more cumin and chili to it.
Tacos are offered on flour or corn tortillas or, for a novel twist, on naan bread. They tend to be a little bigger than the usual street taco and to burst through their single corn tortilla wrappings when you choose that option. And the upshot is that you aren’t on the actual street, which is not a great place to eat a taco in Missoula for much of the year.
I tried the French Vet (skirt steak, chicken liver pate, pickled carrots and jalapeno), the Porkie Pine (an al pastor-style pork taco) and Taylor’s Yucatan Ham (pork shoulder cooked pibil style).
While I have never heard of pork shoulder referred to as Yucatan Ham, I congratulate Taylor, the taco’s namesake chef, on his coinage of the term. The Porkie Pine added peppers and cheese to the traditional pastor combination of pork and pineapple. The French Vet’s intriguing combination of fajita and pate seems like a nod toward a Vietnamese bánh mì.
The kitchen is open till 10 p.m. on nights the bar is open (Tues.-Sat).