Downtown’s new R&R Taqueria taps into a couple food trends of the moment: Everyone likes tacos, and people like to go to places they’ve seen on television.

The original branch, a tiny Elkridge cafe inside a Shell gas station, shot to fame after being featured in an episode of the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” In it, chef Rodrigo Albarran, a Mexico City native and former commercial pilot, explained his success to the show’s always ecstatic host, Guy Fieri. Location doesn’t matter, he said. Food matters.


Fast forward a few years and Albarran has moved out of the gas station to a larger location nearby and added branches in Perry Hall and downtown Baltimore’s Lombard Street. So how is the food?

First impressions: From the Food Network decals on the glass windows of the first-floor restaurant, a passerby could be forgiven for thinking the restaurant is really a store for the cable TV network. Inside, the multi-level dining room looks ready for its close-up, with vibrant murals by Colombian street artist Ledania adorning the walls and tabletops. Gold and white couches sit strangely low to the tables. You may be tempted to ask for a booster seat.

Must-tries: The menu is sprawling; the eye searches out red Food Network logos to know where to begin. Start off with a margarita — not too sweet, not too sour — or creamy horchata ($2.80). Add a healthy order of tacos ($2.89 each); our favorite were the smoky shrimp tacos and the tacos campechanos, filled with a deliciously fatty hodgepodge of meats including chorizo and beef that tastes like it’s been stewing for days. The spicy, salty pork chorizo also makes a satisfying addition to the $8 pambazo and one of the hamburgers ($9). (The pambazo, unfortunately, comes drenched in sour cream and salsa, making it impossible to eat as a sandwich. You may want to ask for it on the side.)

Special touches: Desserts are priced at $6 each. Flan resembles a crumbly cheesecake, with what tasted like Hershey’s chocolate syrup on top. The menu also offers a fine tres leches cake and a dry molten chocolate cake with marshmallow topping. Our server carried a blowtorch when she brought out the latter dish to give it that extra singe. (We always get alarmed when we see a server lighting things on fire. Are we at risk of losing our eyebrows?)

Pro-tip: Service varied from visit to visit. During two initial trips, servers alternately seemed irritated and confused by our orders. A plate of nachos arrived late and with bubbly ends, suggesting it had been sitting under a heat lamp while our stomachs growled; drink orders were forgotten. During a follow-up trip on a slow Sunday afternoon, our server was friendly and capable. It may have helped that we were the only guests there.

Bottom line: The magic that made the Elkridge gas station an under-the-radar foodie destination doesn’t quite translate to the expanded square footage of the Lombard Street location. But as Albarran once said, location doesn’t matter, food matters. Next time, I’ll be ordering my tacos to go, to eat from the comfort of home. (By then, one hopes, the restaurant will have switched to a non-foam carryout container, as required by Baltimore law.)

2 W. Lombard St., Downtown. rrtaqueria.com. 410-244-7260. Open for lunch and dinner daily; closes at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.