Chattanooga has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, but the new Taco Rico on Main Street isn’t a typical south-of-the-border cafe.
Though tacos and burritos are on the menu, you’ll just have to try this place to experience the difference.
A sign out front advertises pupusas, tamales de elote and platos. What? My Taco Bell vocabulary hadn’t prepared me for these dishes. But once I had the menu in hand, all fears were gone. Everything was explained, for the most part. Pupusas, I have found, are one of my new favorite foods.
The dishes are Salvadoran — a little farther south of the border than most other Spanishstyle restaurants around. I don’t speak Spanish, so I was a little frightened of what might end up on my plate. But rest assured, I’ve been back since my initial visit and will continue to do so.
The order (for two): One lamb taco, one chicken and cheese pupusa, one chicken burrito and one chicken taco.
Meals begin with chips and three salsa-style dips — red sauce, salsa verde and chimichuri. They should bottle and sell that chimichurri, a deliciously tangy, blend of onions, garlic, vinegar and spices. None of the dips were overwhelmingly spicy, but if you have a tender palate, stick with the chimichurri.
Tacos come “open-faced” on small, soft tortillas. My lamb did not have a remarkable flavor. Could have been beef. And it was a little heavy on cilantro. Easily remedied. If you don’t care for cilantro, ask for it to be left off. The taco, sprinkled with a little chimichurri, was excellent.
A pupusa is a soft tortilla stuffed with cheese and your choice of meat. Even tongue — no thanks. Chicken was perfect. It came steaming hot and was out-of-this-world good.
The burrito was large and stuffed to the brim. One bite stolen from my lunchmate was excellent. Though it was filled with chicken, rice and other ingredients, it wasn’t an overly heavy taste like so many other burritos I’ve had.
Best bets: Chicken and cheese or shrimp and cheese pupusa; tamales, burritos; empanadas, quesadillas.
Orders are taken at the table, and payment is made at the register. It took little time for chips and salsa to appear, followed minutes later by our entrees.
Room for improvement:
Nothing to report, though there was a slight communication problem. Just sit back and roll with it.
Taco Rico is in one of several Main Street buildings that have undergone renovation, though this one is more casual than some of the others. Tables are mismatched but comfortable. The place is clean with a largescreen TV tuned to a Spanish channel. Another plus: free, offstreet parking.
Fresh ingredients prepared to order make this restaurant one that will draw folks in and back again. It’s a wonderful addition to the growing commerce on Main Street.
E-mail Anne Braly at abraly @timesfreepress.com
IF YOU GO
Where: Taco Rico, 207 E. Main St. (across from No. 1 fire hall).
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: ($1.50 (pupusas, empanadas)-$6 (plate of the day).
Payment: Cash, Visa, MasterCard.