New restaurant Toro delivers great Mexican food with fresh twists

Duck into Toro, Main Street’s newest restaurant, and the first thing you’re struck by is the sleekness. The bar, the dining area, the tables—everything is polished and tastefully quirky. Bachata drifts down from the speakers. Abstract art in red and black swirls along the walls. Red glass chandeliers add to the light from mosaic lamps. Sit down and order, though, and you’ll forget all about the decor as you devour some seriously good Mexican-fusion food.

The menu begins to impress even with the appetizers duck carnitas, bison tamales, fresh-made guacamole, chiles rellenos and even Corona-steamed mussels. For main dishes, there are tacos (with meat and topping combo choices), salads, enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, tortas and house specialties. If your meal includes tortillas, you have the choice of corn, flour or a flour-corn blend. The sides include grilled corn, chile-spiked fries, black bean and corn salad, rice and chorizo and rice and beans. Dessert is a chance to really experiment—prickly pear sorbet, for example, served in an exquisite white chocolate bowl garnished with a sprig of mint.

The food is truly impressive. Thoughtfully prepared, it walks the delicate line between too spicy and bland. If you want some tears, you can order hot sauce on the side, but the food doesn’t need it. The meat is rich, cooked enough to be safe but still juicy. The spices are definitely there, but used sparingly enough to never overpower the dishes, and it’s a joy to occasionally get a dash of strong lime or cilantro in the midst of a taco. There also isn’t the dangerous tendency to insist on traditional Mexicana—the use of bison, for instance, shows a willingness to use new styles and materials in traditional foods. But by the same token, the food feels a good deal more Mexican than many other joints in Bozeman, if only by the use of such Latin staples as carne asada, prickly pear, and tequila. The portions are also healthy; you’ll get a full meal if you want it.

The drinks also show an impressive range—the beer selection covers some well-known imports and a few local and national selections as well. The wine is less diverse, but well-chosen to cover anyone’s tastes. Cocktails tend to stick to Spanish and Mexican selections: margaritas, mojitos, Mexican mules, sangria and others. The tequila section, though, makes up for all other deficits. There are more than 10 choices for each type of tequila (blanco, añejo and reposado), and for real fans, there are even choices for extra añejo and mezcal. If you are a fan of agave alcohol, there is no better restaurant in Bozeman to refine your tastes.

The main downside is the price. If you skip the appetizers and dessert and buy carefully, you’ll be in for maybe $20, but it’s easy to spend a lot. Some choices are as much as $29, and there are no main dishes cheaper than $10. Even the appetizers run from $4-$15. This is definitely outside most college budgets. But if you’re willing to splurge a bit, the food is worth a night of indulgence.

Toro is fun and fresh without pretensions—from the red glass chandeliers to the giant multi-colored metal bull skull that dominates the space, the atmosphere is both refined and easygoing. It’s a place classy enough to take a date, but not so fancy as to need a tuxedo. It’s not cheap by any means, but if you’re looking for good Mexican food and a strong glass of tequila in a great ambience, there’s a great new place to try.