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Staff Photo by Dave Flessner / 423 Taco opened in October on West Eighth Street.

Chuy Esquivel got his first job in the restaurant industry at 16 in 2004, the year he graduated from high school.

Since then, he has stayed in the industry as a server, manager and even owner, and last month he opened 423 Taco on West Eighth Street in downtown Chattanooga.

"I learned the ins and outs of a Mexican restaurant and decided it was time to do my own," he said in an interview.

Esquivel said the focus of 423 Taco is on the tacos and the cocktails. The bar features an extensive offering of tequilas and mezcal with a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.

For large parties, there is even something called the Tequila Tunnel. It's a place where larger groups can gather for birthdays, corporate events or holiday parties and guests can sit on comfortable couches while served margaritas or tequila shots in ice shot glasses. Patrons are encouraged to throw the empty glasses at the bell located nearby.

Seating in the restaurant is just over 100, and Esquivel said the eatery is perfect for group gatherings.

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Photo courtesty of Sarah Swainson Photography / Tacos, such the these featuring pork belly, are the signature item on the menu.

If you go

* What: 423 Taco, 212 W. Eighth St.

* Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday

* Specialties: The Taco Flight which lets you pick any three tacos for $16.99 and their best seller, the Birria Tacos with beef and a cheesy tortilla shell topped with onion, cilantro and consome dipping sauce for $13.99

The menu is fairly extensive with fajitas, quesadillas, burritos, specials like a sampler platter or the torta + french fries and carnitas, nachos and enchiladas.

Among the more popular dishes are Grandma's Guacamole, the taco flight (featuring a variety of their specialties), pork belly tacos, barbacoa tacos and their best-seller, the birria tacos.

Appetizers include several salsa and guacamole dips, queso fundido featuring cooked poblano peppers, bell peppers, queso dip topped with fresh tomatoes and cilantro and served with three flour tortillas, or the Sope Trio featuring steak, chicken, chorizo, corn dough patties, refried beans, pico, lettuce, sour cream and queso fresco.

The lunch menu includes a breakfast burrito, lunch fajitas, fiesta bowl and chorizo and eggs or the ranchero eggs.

The menu also offers a chicken tortilla soup, a shrimp soup and a variety of salads.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Swainson Photography / 423 Taco has a Tequila Tunnel room for large parties where margaritas and tequila shots served in ice shot glasses are the specialty.
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