(above) El Salvadorian beef stew with rice, beans, tortillas and plantains; authentic tamales served in banana leaf; the pupusa served with a cole-slaw like salad.
It's good to see that Chattanooga's only El Salvadoran restaurant finally has a substantial lunch crowd. This place seems to be growing in popularity with a gradual increase in customers over the last few months, based solely on my unscientific observations. If you have not tried El Salvadoran food, here is what you can expect:
The Pupusa: Pupusas are thick tortilla like rounds filled with cheese, meat, or some type of vegetable. Served with a side of curtido that is used as a topping for the pupusas.
Curtido: Cabbage-like salad. Reminds me of cole-slaw.
Loroco: This is a filling available in the pupusa. It is an edible flower.
Tamale: Meat or cheese cooked inside of corn meal. At this particular restaurant, the tamales are cooked inside banana leaves rather than the usual corn husk, which, I think, makes them even more flavorful and moist. Dare I say, Taco Rico has the best tamales in Chattanooga.
Plantain: Similar to a banana, usually served fried as a side dish with your meal.
Maracuyá: A flavor of fruit drink that is sometimes available at Taco Rico (and probably other Central American restaurants). I don't know much about this type of fruit, but maybe our friends over at the Fruit Species website can give us some info (hint, hint).
These are by no means the only items on the menu, just some of the ones you might not be familiar with. I had the Plate of the Day which was a beef stew (see photo above) served with tortillas, rice, and plantains. Beans were also served, but they were whole beans, not the refried variety that is seen in most local Mexican restaurants. A fellow customer suggested I try a bottle of coke, because it is imported from Honduras and is made with sugar cane rather than what coke is usually made of in this country, whatever that is.
With extremely reasonable prices, and flavors that are different but not too exotic for the less adventurous, Taco Rico would be an excellent alternative to Mexican restaurants for lunch or dinner. And for those of you not near Chattanooga, if you happen to see a restaurant serving pupusas, maybe now you will give them a try.
Taco Rico, Dine-o-meter rating: 80%
See the review here: http://www.dineometer.com/browse_reviews.php?id_b=149