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Pork and chicken tamales are offered. According to the server, sometimes the chicken tamales are made with bones in the meat, adding to the flavor. Others are made with the white meat of the breast, which is how these were made. An order of two was $4.

If you go

› Where: Tacos el Chilango, 3646 Brainerd Road

› Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

› Price range: $2.50 tacos-$12 Coctel de Camarones Grande (large shrimp cocktail

› Alcohol: No

› Phone: 423-531-8492

Except for a couple of years spent in North Georgia as a small child and a couple more in North Chattanooga as a young adult, I've lived in or on the edge of the Brainerd community my whole life. I've watched businesses and buildings come and go, or be repurposed several times over.

I remember insisting that Mr. Ault at Ault Hardware go to great lengths to get a Bowie knife out of a display case for me when I was about 11 years old, only to have to march it right back after my dad saw it. That was a long embarrassing march.

I mention that because the building that once housed that store has become my latest food obsession. Tacos el Chilango is not a fancy place, it doesn't serve alcohol and you don't even get chips and salsa to fill up on before eating. Any of those might be issues for some; but for me, it's about the food, which in this case is delicious. So, much so, I've been going about twice a week. working my way down the menu, determined to try everything.

I've had the chicken, steak and pork tacos, enchilada tostada, pozole, the chicken tamales and now the Huerfana Torta, a sandwich the size of Miller Park. All are very good and make me want to try more.

THE SPACE

The space is very large and open. Perhaps even too big, but you come here for the food. It is wide open with plenty of seating in both booths and tables. The staff has been very friendly and helpful during my visits, though I sometimes get items to go.

THE MENU

Menu items are listed on a large board behind the counter at the back of the room where you place your order. Everything is in Spanish except for the listing of meats, which is in Spanish and English.

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Al Pastor tacos are piled high with marinated pork, onions, cilantro, cactus and lettuce and served on fresh-made shells. Several salsas, radishes, roasted jalapenos, onions and cilantro are available at a serving station next to the register.

This might intimidate some who don't know a tortas (sandwich $10-$12) from a taco ($2.50). But there are also photographs of many of the dishes.

The staff has been very helpful with any questions I've had, and also with suggestions. And, as always, Google is your friend.

Tostados, tacos, enchiladas, nachos and quesadillas are all on the menu here, but so are six tortas, ceviche and seafood options. But what makes Tacos el Chilango so good, besides the fact that the food is good, of course, is the variety.

There are 15 kinds of tacos from chicken and pork to beef tongue, intestines, beef cheek, cactus, beef ribs, beef head, corned beef and Mexican sausage.

Tortas options include Herfana Torta (Mexican sausage, beef breaded with eggs, jam, cheese, beans and mayonaise), Chilango Torta (marinated pork, sausage, pineapple and suadero [a thin cut of beef or pork from the area between the belly and the leg]) and Trevi Torta (chicken breast, pork leg, cheese and eggs).

Antojitos, which are street food/appetizers, include nachos ($10) with or without meat ($6.25), burritos with ($10) or without meat ($7.50), Tacos Dorados (two for $8.75) with rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and cheese, Menudo (beef tip soup, $12.50) with tortillas, onions, cilantro and jalapenos, and Pambazos ($8.75) marinated bread, red sauce, Mexican sausage with potatoes, lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

A variety of toppings are offered on a cart near the register. These include salsas, radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, chopped onions and, sometimes, guacamole. Sides include rice, French fries, beans, grilled onions, grilled jalapenos, grilled green onions, grilled cactus and fried plantain. They are all $4.39.

Thanks to a tip from my nephew, I recently ordered the pozole, which isn't on the menu. It is a traditional Mexican soup or stew with hominy, pork, shredded cabbage, chile peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado and lime. Thick and rich, it is pretty amazing stuff, and the to-go order I got made almost two meals.

The torta I had this week was piled high with Mexican sausage, breaded beef strips, an egg, jam, cheese, beans and mayonnaise. It covered the entire plate, and made for a nice dinner later that day.

THE VERDICT

I've enjoyed every dish I've had, and I'm only about one-tenth of the way through the menu, so I will be back.

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

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