Editor's Note: Today we are beginning a series of reviews featuring our staff's favorite places to dine. They are either go-to spots we frequent for good service and conversation, the favorite dishes we order over and over or the one-of-a-kind Chattanooga dives that make us love our Scenic City that much more.
As a working mom with three kids ages 7 and under, going out to eat much anymore is hard, if not impossible most of the time due to either cost, logistics or both. Still when the hubs and I do get a chance to head out for a date night, you can be sure Mexican is in our sights, more specifically, the "fresh Mex" of Taco Mamacita.
THE REASON IT'S A GO-TO
Nestled on the North Shore, it's the perfect distance from Coolidge Park, great for when we've got the whole crew and need a walk and a night running off energy. Or if it's just us, we can stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge and just take in the sights and sounds of the city and the river. You just can't beat the spot. Then there's the food and the flavor. From the first bites of chips con queso to the final devouring moment of the last California club taco, everything is vibrant, fresh and full of the Mexican blends of delicious cuisine that I could eat my weight in if allowed (though thankfully no one has let me yet).
As expected, Taco Mamacita gives a nod to traditional Mexican flair with lots of bright colors and characters in its decor, but not in a typical chain restaurant kind of way. Rather it brings in some fun, modern, industrial touches through the lighting and dark woods that make up the tables and much of the restaurant's trim. Coupled with the open patio space outside, it's a spot in the Scenic City that I would not only recommend to tourists and friends, but would insist that they make it a stop if they have yet to do so.
› Where: Taco Mamacita, 109 N. Market St.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
› Price range: $3.75-$3.99 tacos, $5-$9 appetizers, plates start at $9.99
› Alcohol: Yes
› Contact: tacomamcita.com or call 423-648-6262
On my visit, I went to my all-time favorite, the chicken tortilla soup, and one California club taco.But while I waited for the main course, I started with an order of chips con queso. I know what you're thinking: No one needs an entire order of chips and queso on their own, but let's remember I'm a working mom of three kids who doesn't get out much.
So, I seized the day, plus I knew I would have leftovers to take home and reminisce on my quiet lunch for the following afternoon. The chips (gluten-free by request) were perfectly crispy and the queso packed a punch of flavor and spice that just can't be beat.
On the main event, the chicken tortilla soup. I've never had anything so fresh and flavorful that grips me the way this soup does. Seriously. All the main ingredients are brought out in a bowl (chicken, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, avocados and limes), and the broth is served hot in a small silver pitcher on the side. This allows diners a moment to compose their fixings the way they want before pouring the piping hot broth over the mixture creating a dream in a bowl.
I pair this dish with one taco of my choosing, and this time it was the California club, which is served on a white tortilla with roasted chicken, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeno lime mayo and chipotle cream sauce.
As far as contents, this taco is one of the lighter ones on the menu, which was my reason for selecting it since I splurged for my chips con queso at the beginning of the meal. There are a host of others to choose from ranging from meat-heavy to vegetarian, mild to three-alarm fire and everything in between. I've honestly yet to find one that I didn't like, and believe me, I've tried.
Servers at Taco Mamacita also don't disappoint. Folks are fast but friendly and tolerant of my kids when they're going bonkers — and in this mama's world, that latter counts for everything here. Even servers who are not "assigned" to our table make it a point to stop by to ask if we need anything or see how they can help. Today was proof of that when a manager dropped by my table while I was on my own and offered to pack up the leftovers. Perfect.
Taco Mamacita soothes this working mama's heart and stomach. I can always count a great meal and a good experience. Stop what you're doing and go right now. Why are you still reading this? Go! I know it's not "Taco Tuesday," but since when do you need an excuse for eating tacos? At the end of the day if someone asked you if you wanted to be skinny for the rest of your life or eat tacos, would you choose crunchy or soft tacos?
Contact Brandi Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6709.