El Meson Restaurante Mexicano brings a festive taste to the holidays with recipes passed down through the Ruiz family, prepared to perfection for guests at the restaurant and offsite holiday celebrations of all sizes.
"People get tired of all the traditional food, turkey and dressing and such," says Tony Ruiz, owner of the family-owned restaurant's Hixson location. "So if you want to bring something different, everyone loves our tamales, and then there's our mole."
Parties can be hosted at both the Hixson and East Brainerd restaurant locations in one of the onsite party rooms, or the party's host can work with the Ruiz family to create the perfect offsite catered event. Ruiz says the popular restaurant has hosted several traditional "taquizas" in which El Meson's staff sets up a portable grill and cooks three different meats for guests. Each taquiza is accompanied by a pot of soup and a specialty salsa bar that features four different salsas, guacamole and cheese dip.
"A lot of restaurants might feel it's a hassle to have a big party, but we love it," Ruiz says. "We're prepared for the big parties and so we want you to bring out your family and co-workers, or we can come to you."
During the holiday season, he says, both of the restaurant's locations will be focusing on speedy lunches so tired shoppers can come in and re-energize before hopping back into the retail fray. "We're going to be open early on Black Friday at both locations so call for details, and we're going to be having drink and food specials throughout the whole shopping season," Ruiz says. "We are offering some new sides now. There are tons of Mexican restaurants in Chattanooga, but we like to be in our own category and offer customers more choices - something beyond the refried beans and rice."
Among the new sides are a healthy vegetable medley, black beans and the already popular Cotija corn, a serving of corn with Cotija cheese and a creamy sauce. Ruiz says guests can also now order white poblano rice, which is steamed white rice with poblano peppers. Another new addition to the restaurant bar is the Rompope, a specialty drink prepared with horchata-flavored rum and cinnamon whiskey.
El Meson's menu selection will continue to grow with new recipes inspired by Ruiz's grandmother. Guests can enjoy a preview of some of the traditional recipes to be added to the menu at the Sunday brunch buffet hosted weekly at each location. For example, at the omelet station guests can order an omelet or chilaquiles, which Ruiz says is like a tortilla casserole with whatever meats or vegetables guests choose to add from the selection available. The specialty recipes rotate each week, so guests will be able to try several new recipes throughout the winter. "We're very thankful for all our customers who have been there for us for 20 years now," says Ruiz, who celebrated the third anniversary of the Hixson location this November. "Chattanooga is a wonderful place and we're very happy to have found this city."
LOCATION: 2204 Hamilton Place Blvd. and 248 Northgate Mall Drive, Suite 114.
HOURS: Both locations are open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
PHONE: For the Hamilton Place location call 894-8726 and for Northgate call 710-1201.
NICE TO KNOW: El Meson offers guests plenty of chances to catch college and NFL games on televisions at the restaurants' bars.