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Tonali: Refreshing Summer Fare

Posted by hollyandholley 16 Jun 2008 10 Comments

Tonali is an ideal summer restaurant choice for lunch or dinner in Durham.  The menu offers light, tasty Mexican food.  This was Date Night for us and Tonali is located close to home.  The chips are homemade.  The salsa is mildly spiced and smokey–thin rather than chunky.  Both were a pleasant accompaniment to our ice cold Modelo and Pacifico beers.  The delicious mussel stew with chorizo in a chile ocean broth ($10) was spicy but the crisp green beans and avocado cooled the burn. 

I ordered the duck confit carnitas tacos with a pickled orange-pineapple salsa ($9.75).  Even though I am not a big fan of pineapple in a savory dish (always makes me think of flavored lip gloss), this was a yummy combination.  The plating of the food at Tonali is another selling point–in addition to tasting good, it looks good too.  Mr. H sampled the crispy grouper tacos with mango-jalepeno salpicon at $10.95 (which I tried two weeks ago).  He found this dish as tasty as I did.  The fish is crispy on the outside, the spiciness of the relish accents not overwhelms.  The sides were light and colorful. 

Dessert was a rich but not sweet chocolate gooey-on-the-inside cake served with strawberries and lightly carmelized bananas–mmm!  And the coffee!  Deep, dark Mexican beans in a French press…maybe I will not get to sleep tonight but the aroma!  the flavor!  The service is timely and the owner and his staff are quite nice.  The menu is seasonal with entrees ranging $9-$20.  Take the time to visit Tonali. 

Tonali:  3642 Shannon Road between MLK Blvd and Old Chapel Hill Rd (shares a bldg with Barriskill Dance Studio).  Hours are Mon-Thu  11am-2:30pm and 5:30-9pm, Fri 11am-2:30pm and 5:30-10pm, Sat 5:30-10pm.  Closed Sundays.  http://www.tonalirestaurant.com/ 

10 Comments »

  • all is on said:

    how about some vegetarian options–were there any? Their ‘site still doesn’t have any menu info up, unfortunately.

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  • SportsBizPro said:

    do they charge for chips and salsa?

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  • hollyandholley said:

    Yes, there are vegetarian dishes on the lunch and dinner menus!

    No, there is no charge for the chips and salsa. In fact our server offered us another serving if we wanted it. Unlike some Mexican restaurants that bring a huge basket of chips and individual bowls of salsa, Tonali serves a modest plate of chips (thick, homemade!) with a small bowl of salsa. The result is that it feels like a starter course to a good meal rather than a feedbag. (Not knocking those endless baskets of chips and bowls of salsa at some places–sometimes that is just the ticket!)

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  • TSQ75 said:

    who charges for chips and salsa!?

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  • Jen said:

    Blue Corn Cafe charges for chips and salsa. It annoys me every time I go there! I wish Dos Taquitos would open a location in Durham as their food is delicious, and they serve complimentary chips and salsa.

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  • TSQ75 said:

    they charge for chips and salsa? WTF?!

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  • SportsBizPro said:

    yeah, its the “new” thing to do at the higher end mexican joints. It hasn’t caught on here yet but up in DC and NYC it’s almost normal.

    http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2008/02/29/getting-a-chip-off-my-shoulder/

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  • Jen said:

    I’m also annoyed when I get take out from Cosmic, and you only get chips when you eat in the restaurant! Maybe I’m just a little too hung up on my chips and salsa . . . :)

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  • Dos Perros | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] and as RPP reports, they plan to open officially on Monday, August 10. This special place offers Tonali-like fare, with more flavor and kick. We were fortunate enough to wheedle an invitation to their [...]

  • Kurt said:

    I am in Durham for the summer and have relied on Carpe Durham to guide me through the great choices you lucky folks have here. I am a food nut-as is my entire family- and have eaten my way through most of the US and a great deal of the rest of the world. Tonali was an unexpected shock! The chef can compare the dish I had there with anything in NYC or LA! I had a “special”. It was short ribs over smoked mashed potatoes. To say it was excellent would be a sad understatement. It was superb! The Mexican influence was clear throughout but not overwhelming the delicious beef/vegetables/potatoes. I shamelessly used the salsa spoon to scoop up every drop of the sauce at the end of the meal. I will be back and am emailing everyone I know that might be close to Durham to make sure they try Tonali’s!

    [Reply]

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