First Look: 508 Bar + Zorro Trailer

Anchored by Tex-Mex restaurant Pelon’s, there is a newly opened bar/trailer/restaurant trio filling a much needed void in downtown’s Red River District. After a revamp of the former Jamie’s space and neighboring private party house, the corner of 8th and Red River is now home to Pelon’s, adjoining bar 508, and an in-house trailer eatery Zorro. The trio of businesses offers a perfect place to meet before taking in a show at a neighboring venue, as was the case this past Friday evening. With some of our group planning to arrive at scattered times, we chose to meet for drinks at 508 and eat at Zorro over Pelon’s.

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508’s large stone patio shaded by trees is a more than ideal place for cocktail sipping, especially when this cocktail is a perfect Pisco Sour. Since there was a show to catch, we ordered from Zorro’s almost immediately after arriving at 508 (menu here). This proved a wise choice as it took over an hour for our food to arrive. Once our food did appear, however, it proved to be quite good. Those wary of too much spice be warned: Zorro’s is not afraid of a little heat. For example, the pork carnitas are hot enough to make a grown man cry, literarily. The tender caramelized pork was delicious, especially paired with the house Zorro sauce. Each stuffed taco comes topped with a jicama slaw featuring several types of raw peppers, seeds attached. If getting to close to flaming heat scares you a bit, I recommend asking for light slaw when ordering. They don’t mess around on spice in the house queso either, which is unique and tasty. The salsa is milder but still has a nice robust flavor. The fried avocado appetizer features a hearty portion of sliced avocado lightly breaded, fried crisp, and topped with Zorro sauce. The crisp crust against the soft avocado and spicy, creamy sauce was very successful. The generously filled fish tacos were fresh and light. The mango pico made for a perfect addition to these wonderful tacos. The overstuffed vegetarian gordita would have benefitted from more vegetables inside to live up to its ‘overstuffed’ promise, but the masa flatbreads were filling nonetheless.

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While both the bar and trailer showed promise, our experience was unfortunately plagued with a few service issues. Having only just opened a few weeks ago, it is easy to understand a busy Friday night would create an overwhelming situation for a new business.  However, a few simple changes on how the situation was handled would have improved our experience immensely. For example, our simple appetizer order of chips, salsa, and queso took 45 minutes to come out. It seems having these prepped to go quickly after they are ordered would help appease diners’ hunger pains as they waited for food. Once several people who had ordered after us had received and finished their dinner, our runner finally explained it was the gorditas which were causing a back up in the kitchen. Had this been known when ordering initially, we would have ordered differently. Additionally, proactively letting those folks who had ordered gorditas know what was causing the holdup or bringing out the pieces of orders that were finished would have greatly improved the patience level of those waiting.  Of course, any new business deserves a little leeway, and the two man team working Zorro were moving as quickly as possible to turn out orders.

Drink service ran smoother than the trailer, but as the patio became busier, our server became noticeably more flustered and difficult to locate. It appears the bar prefers for customers to order drinks through servers than directly from the bar if sitting outside, which meant our server was tasked with managing orders for the entire back patio. Her section was large and about two-thirds full, which I am sure was not easy to manage, especially given the novelty of the bar. The well staffed bar did do a good job of moving drink orders quickly as once an order was placed it did not take long for a drink to arrive.

Overall, there seem to be a few kinks to work out, but I have faith the new place will come together as time goes on. Again, every new establishment deserves time to get up and running. Will I go back? Absolutely. I especially look forward to trying out Pelon’s. I walked through the restaurant before leaving, and management has done an exceptional job in creating a beautiful, authentic space.

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508 Bar + Zorro Trailer. 802 Red River, Austin, TX 78701.


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