The day was cool and overcast when I stopped by Poblanos Mexican Cuisine to visit with Steve Hyde, who co-owns the North Shore restaurant with his wife, Irma. Even with the patio door propped open the interior was warm, cozy and smelled of sweet spices. Just inside the entrance is a long window that looks into the kitchen, where flames flicker and chefs in black concoct new recipes to be featured as specials.
"We sample new recipes as specials," Steve said. "If they're popular we keep them around."
That's what happened with the Caribbean shrimp and corn chowder soup. Last year it was featured as a winter special, but became so popular it has been added to the menu permanently. Recently, Poblanos expanded its soup menu to include chicken and vegetable tortilla soup as well. "I thought it was time we added a tortilla soup," Steve said. "We are a Mexican restaurant, after all."
Poblanos touts itself as authentic Mexican cuisine. The difference, Steve explained, is that "Tex-Mex just throws in black beans and corn." When I pressed him to define "authentic" he simply said, "We make food here the way we make food at home." Which says a lot, since Irma is native Mexican.
Every day until 3 p.m. and all day Thursday, Poblanos features its authentic Mexican street tacos, made with a double layer of warm and flaky corn tortillas filled with pico de gallo, cheese and your choice of chicken or steak. The tacos are just a buck apiece, making Poblanos an ideal place to grab a quick lunch. "We're really focusing on speed," Steve said. For under $5 you can get two tacos, chips, salsa, and a drink.
The street tacos have also been a big hit with catering. "They're great because they're individually wrapped, so you can just munch them while you mingle," Steve said. Other popular catering dishes are fajitas and enchilada trays, grilled vegetables and rice and beans. But Polanos has no set catering menu. "Nothing is pre-prepared," Steve said. So each catering order is custom designed to the customer's needs.
LOCATION: 551 River St.
HOURS: Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Finally, let us not forget what is perhaps Steve's favorite topic: cocktails. "Right now we have Chattanooga's only Pumpkin martini," he told me, beaming, "rimmed with cinnamon and sugar." Poblanos is also currently featuring pumpkin pie shooters made with Kahlua, Baileys, and cinnamon schnapps.
Seteve has also hand-crafted a new cocktail named the Great Pumpkin, made with pumpkin-infused bourbon and I'm not sure what else. Steve wouldn't give up the recipe.
Regardless, it sounded delicious and like a great drink to warm you up.
But if that doesn't do the trick, Poblanos will soon be covering its large back deck and installing heaters, making it a great place to come cozy up with a pumpkin spiced beverage and a hot plate of food and settle in for the season.