Torchy's Tacos Challenges You to Earn the Burn

Photo by Molly Dunn
Start with The Barn Burner, then work your way up the heat chart.
This month, Torchy's Tacos features four spicy tacos of the month. Each week, the fast-casual Tex-Mex spot releases a special taco, and as the weeks progress, each one gets spicier. And when we say spicier, we mean hot as hell.

The first week, Torchy's unveiled The Barn Burner. It's a simple taco filled with strips of grilled beef fajita, chunks of bacon, crumbled goat cheese, cilantro and manzano chile salad, plus a generous drizzle of Avocado and Diablo sauce. On the burn scale, it's ranked a "4."

The next week, things got a bit spicier with the Firecracker Shrimp. It's twice as hot as The Barn Burner with habanero-battered shrimp, cabbage slaw, candied jalapenos, small chunks of cotija cheese, cilantro and Diablo mayo.

We decided to try these two tacos to see if we could "Earn the Burn," and because we are a little fearful of the next two tacos featuring ghost peppers in the form of a sauce and stewed with pork - that's just craziness right there!

First up was The Barn Burner. It's loaded with tender beef fajita meat and bacon, inviting you to nibble on each piece before diving into the taco headfirst. The strips of Manzano chile peppers along with the Avocado and Diablo sauce hold all of the heat. As you take your first bite, the peppers explode like a firework coating every inch of your mouth. You gasp for air at the initial shock, but the juiciness from the meat, sharpness from the goat cheese and creaminess from the avocado in the sauce creates a scrumptious taco. The spice is definitely not so intense that you can't taste the flavors of the other ingredients. You will need a glass of water, though.

Photo by Molly Dunn
You might start coughing uncontrollably after you bite into the Firecracker Shrimp taco.

Next, we tried the Firecracker Shrimp taco complete with a new level of heat: habanero peppers. Unlike The Barn Burner, the heat is mixed in with the protein, in this case, the shrimp. The crispy coating on the outside of each baby shrimp is crunchy and packed with spice. When you light a firecracker, the spark starts instantly and the explosion comes shortly after. Similarly, as you take your first bite, you won't initially feel the heat, but as the bite travels down your throat, BOOM! you're hit with the intense burn of the habanero peppers.

This taco will certainly make your forehead break out into a sweat. If only there was more creamy cheese or another cool element, such as avocado, to combat the spice. But, that's what milk is for.

If you're up to the challenge, try these two tacos and the most recent release, The Creeper; it's a flour tortilla taco filled with habanero-fried chicken, chorizo and bacon, jalapenos, pickled onions, cotija cheese, cilantro and Creamy Ghost Pepper Sauce. The final taco, The Scalding Pig, featuring pasilla and ghost pepper-stewed pork with escabeche, Jack cheese, cilantro, sour cream and pieces of chicharron will be available August 25. Throw in one of the frozen Chingon Margaritas for extra kick - it's mixed with mango and sweet Chamoy sauce; the rim is decked out in chili salt; and you can sip it through a spicy-sweet tamale straw.

Location Info

Torchy's Tacos

350 W. 19th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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My Voice Nation Help

Is it your choice or HP's that you "review" such crappy places (Pei Wei, Torchy's, etc.)?

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

A challenge, eh? I challenge them to learn how to make their own damn tortillas.


I call BS on anything hot coming out of Torchy's, especially the Shepherd location where they obviously have issues keeping hot foods hot. Queso is almost always room temp and fried chicken is lukewarm at best.

I like the flavors of Torchy's products but I hate cold food, especially food that should be served hot. That location does too much business to warrant such bad service.

Bruce_Are topcommenter

They both sound awesome. I must admit the first time I went to Torchy's I was expecting to establish my position as a Torchy's denier.  But I had the Brushfire taco and loved it. It was spicier and more flavorful than anything you'd get from a Tex-Mex place or taqueria.

Bruce_Are topcommenter


I thought I would be bothered by the grocery store tortillas but I wasn't. I kind of like those better than most homemade flour tortillas in Houston that taste like biscuits.



Many say that you ghost-wrote Katharine Shilcutt's review of Torchy's, is that true?


@Bruce_Are @Nojusticenopiece have, and it's not. Don't get me wrong, it's better than say a taco bell, but still not a place I need extensive food coverage on. Just seems like a waste in a city of hundreds of independent restaurants to write about chains that mass produce food.

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