published Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Taqueria Jalisco opens location downtown

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    The menu at the new Taqueria Jalisco at 850 Market St. includes such standards as tinga (chipotle chicken), carne asada (steak) and chorizo tacos Mexicanos, served with chips and salsa.
    Meghan Pittman

IF YOU GO

Where: Taqueria Jalisco, 850 Market St. (at Miller Plaza).

Phone: 423-362-8056

Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday (and 6-10 p.m. Fridays during Nightfall).

Price range: $3 small plates to $12 entrees.

You’ve been there. Hungry, short on time and in desperate need of an authentic Mexican taco.

That was me last Wednesday, so there was only one option: traipse up East 11th Street to Miller Plaza to give Taqueria Jalisco’s new location a shot.

I’m already a big fan of the restaurant’s first location on Rossville Avenue, and I wanted to see how its younger, downtown twin stacked up.

In short, I found exactly what I was looking for — what I needed — a quick, satisfying, reasonably healthy lunch in the midst of a busy workweek. No frills, no glitz — just some darn good tacos.

THE MENU

Starters — or small plates — at Taqueria Jalisco include the staple chips and salsa ($3) and guacamole ($5). But they also serve some tasty tostadas — fried tortillas topped with scrumptious proteins and crisp, garden goodies such as pico de gallo, jalapeno, avocado or pickled carrots. Load your $3 tostada with steak, chipotle chicken, barbacoa, al pastor, shrimp, chorizo or any of the 10 carnivorous options. Vegetarians of Chattanooga can even enjoy one stacked with tangy sliced cactus.

If your afternoon has time for a siesta, go for any one of the classic large plates. Get your melted-cheese fix with a quesadilla or scarf down a burrito the size of your arm — each for $7.

Or go with one of the more traditional options.

Flautas are one of my favorites. Those are flash-fried flour tortillas filled with chipotle chicken, topped with the garden — plus queso fresco (that delicious white, crumbly Mexican cheese), sour cream and tomatillo avocado salsa. Tacqueria Jalisco serves them in threes for $8. Bring a pillow back to your desk — or, better yet, find a hammock.

Of course, I told you from the start: I was on a hunt for tacos — traditional steamy corn tortillas filled with meat, diced onion and cilantro. That’s it.

THE ORDER

The start of my lunch lacked luster.

My chips weren’t warm, but my Coke was. That was a bummer, because they serve Mexican Coke, and “refresco” should be a cold drink.

But getting the kinks worked out of a new eatery can be tough, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. And the finish was strong.

Despite the temperature flubs, the chips, salsa and beverage came out immediately, and the five toothsome $1.50-apiece tacos followed shortly after.

The chorizo was expertly spiced and dripping with a wonderful mix of pork and pepper oils. It took three bites.

Next, I went for the standard chicken (or pollo) to cleanse my taco taster. The yard bird was perfectly grilled and full of flavor. Naturally, I transitioned to the chipotle chicken (or tinga) to get my spice-o-meter climbing again and moved straight on to steak (or carne asada). I finished with al pastor — roast pork marinated in chili and pineapple. It was dessert in a tortilla.

THE SERVICE

This is not the place for a white tablecloth power lunch. But it’s perfect for the no-tablecloth “I need a bite before my next meeting in 30 minutes” lunch.

It’s counter service, so you walk up, pay and the kindly wait staff brings your parade of food in baskets. My lovely fiancée and I walked in at 1:40 p.m. and were out at 2:10 p.m. And we got out for just over $14. Can’t beat that for a weekday lunch.

THE SPACE

It’s a small, cozy place. I could see a busy lunch hour getting pretty packed, but diners have the option of spreading out all over Miller Plaza. Sunshine and burritos for all!

THE VERDICT

Go to Tacqueira Jalisco when you have a Mexican food craving that needs to get curbed fast. But given its location, the traditional taco shop can also be great for a leisurely afternoon feast.

There might be some hiccups for this new location, but I hope it fast becomes a downtown staple the way its original spot is in the Southside.

It’s already there in my book.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com. or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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