UTC students search Chattanooga for a cheap, delicious taco lunch for about $10

Photos contributed by Samuel Bingham

Small business makes some of the best tacos in Chattanooga

By Samuel Bigham

Restaurant: Taqueria Jalisco Ania

Type of cuisine: Mexican

Address: 1639 Rossville Ave.

Dish Sampled: Mexican street-style tacos

Cost (not including tax or tip): $9

Overview: Taqueria Jalisco Ania is a small, cozy restaurant with wonderful food and a lovely atmosphere.

The Space: When you first absorb the atmosphere of Taqueria Jalisco, its humble origins beggar belief. What started as a single food truck has evolved into a fantastic modern space with striking portraits of Mexican women adding life and personality to the intricate design.

The Menu: Taqueria Jalisco offers a variety of reimagined plates inspired by traditional Mexican dishes. The food offered ranges from tacos, burritos and burrito bowls, to tamales and tortas.

The Order: I ordered the Mexican street-style tacos, which have a wide option of available meats. They come in bundles of three, so I chose to sample as widely as I could and ordered pollo (chicken), carne asada (seasoned steak strips) and barbacoa (braised beef). They came sprinkled with diced fresh onions and wrapped in soft corn tortillas with two slices of lime on the side.

The Service: The wait staff is impeccable and buzz about the restaurant with tremendous efficiency. A raised hand will bring a waiter to your table in moments, and the food came hot and fresh as soon as the chef finished.

The Verdict: From incredible food to great service and a wonderful atmosphere, this restaurant is sure to be one of my most-frequented.

  photo  Photos contributed by Caroline Pfister

American eatery offers delicious tacos in a historical setting

By Caroline Pfister

Restaurant: STIR

Type of Cuisine: American

Address: 1444 Market St.

Dish Sampled: Blackened fish tacos

Cost: $12.95

Overview: Located in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo complex, STIR is the perfect family-friendly American restaurant. STIR serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as craft cocktails.

The Space: I was amazed by the beautiful natural lighting coming from windows that wrap around the building and the exposed brick walls.

The Menu: Food at STIR is all made from scratch with fresh ingredients. You can order just about anything, from oysters to burgers to steak. Most entrees range from $9.50 to as much as $27. Sandwiches, tacos, soups and salads are typically in the $9.50-$15 range.

The Order: I got the blackened fish tacos, and they were delicious. The tacos come with charred salsa, pico, pickled onions, Cotija cheese, slaw, crema and hand-cut fries. The price was $12.95 before tax and tip.

The Service: My friend and I were greeted as soon as we arrived there by their host opening the door for us and saying, "Hello, welcome to STIR." Our waitress explained the whole lunch and drink menu to us and was super helpful as it was our first time visiting with their restaurant.

The Verdict: I went on my 21st birthday, and they even sang to me and came out with a chocolate espresso flourless piece of cake. Go enjoy the fish tacos!

  photo  Photos contributed by Mabry Maddox

Neighborhood restaurant brings flavorful tacos to their traditionally American menu

By Mabry Maddox

Restaurant: Universal Joint

Type of Cuisine: American

Address: 532 Lookout St.

Dish Sampled: Chicken tacos

Cost: $10

Overview: Universal Joint is a lively neighborhood restaurant with a large outdoor patio located in the downtown area of Chattanooga. UJ offers a full bar, a dog patio and high-quality food.

The Space: A Pure gas station originally stood where Universal Joint is now. Sitting in an older part of downtown, the restaurant is surrounded by classic buildings and overlooks a fountain on the street that provides a cool and different vibe.

The Menu: Universal Joint serves a variety of lunch and dinner dishes, including sandwiches, burgers, salads, tacos and bar snacks. Vegan and vegetarian options are available, as well as gluten-free options. Prices range from $10-$18.

The Order: I ordered the chicken tacos, one of the three taco options on the menu. Although I have eaten the Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos, which were outstanding, I wanted to try their least expensive taco option sitting at exactly $10. The order of chicken tacos came with two tacos dressed with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo, served with a side of chips and salsa. The chicken tacos were a little dry, but my side of sweet potato fries was yummy.

The Service: Since it was lunch hour when I went, the restaurant was wildly busy with almost every table taken, so it took a few minutes for a server to arrive.

The Verdict: Overall, I had an enjoyable time at Universal Joint, largely due to the company I was with and the atmosphere of the establishment.

  photo  Photos contributed by Ashleigh Carroll

Mexican restaurant brings its epic motto to their tacos

By Ashleigh Carroll

Restaurant: Agave & Rye

Type of Cuisine: Traditional Mexican

Address: 185 Chestnut St.

Dish Sampled: "Swipe Right" taco

Cost: $8.95

Overview: Agave & Rye is a large restaurant located near downtown Chattanooga where they promise "to deliver an EPIC experience to our Employees, Patrons, and Community."

The Space: When you walk into Agave & Rye, you are met with the colorful decor and ambiance. Unique lighting fixtures help brighten the colors of the large art pieces dancing around the room.

The Menu: The menu features different appetizers, salads and "not a taco" dishes. The "epic" tacos are the top choice at Agave & Rye. They are double-shelled tacos filled with many combinations. The "epic" tacos are ordered individually, and the grilled street tacos come with three [per order].

The Order: I ordered the "Swipe Right" taco, one of Agave & Rye's "epic" tacos. At $8.95 it was worth the price for a mega taco. The chicken went perfectly with the sweet and spicy bacon on the bottom of the taco. The melted aged white cheddar was topped with salsa and sour cream.

The Service: From the moment I walked into the door, the hostess greeted me with a smile on her face. She suggested her favorite "epic" tacos to me and why she liked them. She was quick with answering questions regarding the menu and their food.

The Verdict: Agave and Rye creates a fun and lively atmosphere that is in tone with the food they serve. The extensive options of "epic" tacos allow each patron to order something different. The possibilities are endless; the uniqueness is something too epic to forget.

  photo  Photo contributed by Peyton Schultz

North Shore's Taco Mamacita: Inventive and affordable tacos

By Peyton Schultz

Restaurant: Taco Mamacita

Type of cuisine: Tex-Mex

Address: 109 N Market St.

Dish Sampled: "Sloppy Jose" taco

Cost: $4.25

Overview: Taco Mamacita is an eclectic Tex-Mex restaurant and bar on North Market Street that is well known for its specialty tacos.

The Space: The restaurant's exterior is a little rustic, but the bright red words "Taco Mamacita" and the large outdoor patio draws customers in.

The Menu: Taco Mamacita's menu has many options to choose from, including nachos, soups, salads, enchiladas and, of course, tacos. There are several vegan options, as well as specialty drinks. The tacos range from only $3.99-$4.99 a piece, allowing customers to get two tacos, or a taco and a side, for under $10.

The Order: I chose the "Sloppy Jose" taco for $4.25, which consisted of seasoned ground beef, queso melt, jalapeños, Monterey jack cheese, sour cream and Frito chips. The ground beef was cooked in an array of seasonings. The queso melt and Monterey jack made it perfectly cheesy. The Fritos added a nice crunch, and the jalapeños gave it the little kick it needed.

The Service: The service was outstanding, and I was waited on shortly after sitting down. The food came out within 10 minutes of ordering, and the waitress was very kind and attentive.

The Verdict: Taco Mamacita is a great lunch stop, and its bar makes it a wonderful addition to Chattanooga's nightlife. With their freshly cooked meals, great service and affordable prices, it is hard to go wrong at Taco Mamacita.

  photo  Photos contributed by Jewel Gordon

Mexican-inspired dishes with Indian twist serve up creative tacos for all

By Jewel Gordon

Restaurant: Bollywood Tacos and Bar

Location: 203 E Main St.

Dish: Carne asada and "Peach Country" tacos

Price: $7.75

Overview: Bollywood Tacos and Bar is a small, quaint restaurant located on the corner of East Main Street and Rossville Avenue in Chattanooga's growing Southside district. This restaurant's Mexican-inspired dishes take on an Indian twist.

The Space: Situated between some of the most popular downtown restaurants in Chattanooga, Bollywood doesn't fit the aesthetic of some of the restaurants it neighbors. The room doesn't fit more than 20 tables, and the bar takes up the entire back wall. The room is painted a bright purple.

The Menu: Bollywood's menu features an assortment of tacos ranging from traditional Mexican cuisine to Indian, to a perfect fusion of both. The taco menu is separated into three sections: house tacos; premium tacos; and Bollykick tacos.

I chose to do the "any two premium tacos for $7.75 option" for my lunch, and the tacos exceeded any expectations. Overwhelmed with my options, I told my waitress to choose whatever two tacos [she] felt I would like. I ended up with the traditional carne asada (steak) taco and a "Peach Country" taco which featured fried chicken, bacon, pimento cheese and peach salsa. I especially loved the uniqueness of the "Peach Country" taco. The warm, savory chicken and bacon balanced well with the cold pimento cheese and sweet peach salsa. Although I never thought these ingredients would pair well together, I was pleasantly surprised at my first bite.

The Service: Within 10 minutes I had ordered, and my food was in front of me. Even with only two servers, I was asked several times if everything was satisfactory and was ensured that if I needed anything, they would be happy to help.

The Verdict: The restaurant's menu variety makes it possible for anyone to find a taco with ingredients they like or take a leap of faith and try something out of their comfort zone. The fresh ingredients and homey feel are unlike any other taco spot in Chattanooga.