chico’s tacos (el paso)

As we stood in the cattle call for our flight to El Paso, I asked the couple behind us if they were from The Pass. They were.

“Have you ever been to Chico’s Tacos?”

They looked at each other uncomfortably, said yes, and then said, “People either love it or hate it.”

We got to the original–located between a graveyard and a park–about 10 minutes before it opened, and there were six vehicles waiting for the place to open, including one dude with his elderly mother. After the doors opened, we waved for those that were there before us to the head of the line. As I took a photo of the dining room, a gentlemen walked in and asked if it was our first time.

“You want a tour?” he asked.

A regular and clearly in the “love it” category, he showed us the various walls that formed the business at different phases of its growth (and there were several). He told us how Joe Mora started on July 4, 1953, as a cart before building a shack on city park property and then building a concrete block building, all without permission. By the time someone on city council got a bee in their bonnet, Chico had squatter’s rights and retained the property and building. I’m not sure about that story (and find nothing to corroborate it), but who am I to argue with a third-generation Chico-ian whose grandfather was friends with Mr. Mora.

Chico’s is most famous for its rolled and fried tacos (taquitos) swimming in a boat of super-soupy (and top secret) tomato salsa all topped with shredded cheese. It’s something Mora developed on his own, and it is, to say the least, unique. Our new friend showed me how to eat them, tining the end with the fork and then nibbling the cantilevered corn-tube from the opposite end, dipping it into the thin tomato water from time to time.

I can’t say that I was terribly impressed with the dish, but it certainly is unique, and it is unique to El Paso. Several years back, Chico’s decided to substitute real cheddar cheese for the “traditional” vegetable shortening-based imitation cheese, and the locals nearly burned the town down.

Our new buddy (a former fireman who worked across the street) also recommended the hot dog, two of Oscar Meyer’s best each sliced in half lengthwise and slapped on a hamburger bun with a ladle of pinto beans and ketchup and mustard.

The Bride, balking at the beef in the tacos, had a grillo, a grilled cheese sandwich served on a bed of lettuce and tomato. She was not impressed with the locale, the ambience, and the food. I think I can safely put her in the “hate it” column.

The fireman didn’t tell me to drip the hot, green salsa on my “tacos,” something I read about later, so I may have to go back, although The Bride says she ain’t.

web&where: no web page!!!; various locations
what’s the deal? El Paso-style “tacos”; fast casual
overall: * (food*; atmosphere**; service**; instagrammability***)
cost: $

our scale:
–          meh [think twice]
*         OK [it’ll get the job done]
**       good [solid neighborhood joint]
***     damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
****   yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]

each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entrée and appetizer (no drinks)

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