Chattanooga Now Restaurant review: Taco Roc offers tasty tacos but buyer beware [photos]

Chattanooga Now Restaurant review: Taco Roc offers tasty tacos but buyer beware [photos]

December 29th, 2016 by Mark Pace in Chattnow Dining

While not officially on the menu, hard-shell tacos can be substituted for soft at Taco Roc.

Photo by Mark Pace /Times Free Press.

If you go

› Where: Taco Roc, 6960 Lee Highway.

› Phone: 423-653-1001.

› Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.

› Price range: $3-$11.

Specials

Monday: Taco Roc tacos, $5.80

Tuesday: Enchiladas, $1.50

Wednesday: Burritos, $1.50

Thursday: Taco salad, $6.75

Friday: Burrito plate, $5.99

Saturday: Chimichanga, $6.75

Sunday: Tamale platter, $6.75

The exterior of Taco Roc on Lee Highway near Shallowford Road.

The exterior of Taco Roc on Lee Highway...

Photo by Mark Pace /Times Free Press.

Taco Roc offers a similar ordering process to a fast-food restaurant. A giant menu featuring 52 items lines the wall behind the counter where customers order. Patrons can wait near the counter for their food or have a seat, and employees will bring the food to the table when it's ready.

Taco Roc offers a similar ordering process to...

Photo by Mark Pace /Times Free Press.

The salsa and condiments bar offers customers a unique blend of salsa and other toppings at Taco Roc.

The salsa and condiments bar offers customers a...

Photo by Mark Pace /Times Free Press.

There are few foods in life better than a good taco, and that's exactly what you get at Taco Roc on Old Lee Highway near the intersection with Shallowford Road.

But go at your own risk.

Although the food is tasty, the restaurant has a history of poor health scores, rarely reaching the 90s and failing the health inspector's initial visit on the October Restaurant Report Card.

The failure cited multiple reasons, according to Times Free Press archives, including some that a home cook wouldn't tolerate and would make the average diner think twice about having a meal there.

Taco Roc did fix the issues and scored a 91 on a follow-up inspection, and if you choose to give the restaurant a second chance, the tacos are delicious.

THE SPACE

The restaurant is modest in seating, but I had no problem finding a place to sit in the early evening on a recent Wednesday or when I went back at lunchtime the next day. There are tables and booths ranging in seating from two to eight people. The two largest tables sit next to each other in the middle of the dining area and can be pushed together to seat large groups. The restaurant has seating for about 60 customers inside with a few high-top tables outside.

Upon arrival, customers walk right up to the counter to order. There is a large menu displayed behind the register similar to a fast-food place.

It is a nice touch and perfect for a casual taco joint.

THE FOOD

Taco Roc has 52 menu items ranging from huevos (eggs) to milanesa (breaded meat fillets) and offers a wide variety of tacos.

The menu does not list hard-shell tacos, but they are available upon request and are a personal favorite.

The complimentary salsa and condiment bar offers six salsa options along with onions, limes and other fixings.

On both trips to the restaurant, I got some variation of tacos.

I ordered the No. 21, the Taco Roc tacos ($6.30), on the first trip. The order came with three soft tacos with grilled vegetables, secret seasoning and melted cheese. Customers have the option of chicken, pork, Mexican sausage, barbacoa, ground beef, steak, al pastor, vegetables or a mix for the tacos. I ordered two tacos with barbacoa and one with chicken. I usually prefer the barbacoa but after one bite into the chicken taco, I immediately realized that was the best way to go.

The food was flavorful, and the addition of hot salsa from the bar gave the tacos a kick to boost the flavor.

On the second trip, I asked for three hard-shell tacos, with chicken ($6.15) Customers have the choice of flour or corn shells or tortillas. I went with flour and added items from the salsa bar.

I preferred the hard-shell tacos to the Taco Roc, but they were equally tasty and I would recommend either.

I also ordered chips with guacamole. Chips are not complimentary, but the chips and guacamole were worth the extra $3.99. Customers can order a side of chips and help themselves to the salsa bar to save a few bucks.

THE SERVICE

I had no problems with service on either trip. The employee at the register was friendly and helpful on both occasions. Patrons order at the counter and help themselves to the salsa bar and drinks, cutting out much of the risk of having bad service. The food can be brought out to the table or picked up at the counter. I had my food in less than 10 minutes on both trips.

THE VERDICT

The inconsistent health scores and the failing inspection are worrisome, and it understandably will drive some people away for good. In my trips, I had no complaints about the food, the service or the cleanliness. There are few places in the area with better tacos, and the food came quickly. It was an overall pleasant experience from the time I walked in to the time I left.

Contact Mark Pace at 423-757-6361 or mpace@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @THEMarkPace and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/THEMarkPace/