Locationwise, the High Noon Saloon is extremely close to Big Star: if you walked out the back door of one and there were no barriers in the way, you’d probably end up in the other restaurant. Foodwise, they’re worlds apart. The menus are similar, sure—queso fundido, guacamole, chips and salsa, tacos, margaritas—but the High Noon Saloon’s Tex-Mex doesn’t come even close to measuring up to the (admittedly high) standard that its wildly popular neighbor has set. It may pick up some customers who don’t have the patience to wait for a table at Big Star, but taco competition in the neighborhood is getting fierce, with Antique Taco and now Takito Kitchen close by.

The atmosphere is a cross between old-timey saloon and sports bar: wooden rafters, baroque chandeliers, and old-fashioned wallpaper are accented by enormous flat-screen TVs. The menu is built around tacos, tamales, and fajitas—the type of fare useful for soaking up alcohol late at night—and rounded out with a few soups, salads, and appetizers. Those basics fall uniformly flat: A pork tamale managed to be simultaneously dry (the meat) and soggy (the masa); the veggie tamale (goat cheese, poblano pepper, tomato, onion) was distinguishable from the other only by the fact that it was uniformly soggy and had less flavor. Tacos (al pastor, barbacoa chicken, smoked brisket) were more flavorful, but the meat on all of them was a bit tough—though I did like the chipotle-barbecue sauce on the brisket.