Having been born and raised in El Paso, Chico's Tacos is an institution. It was the go-to place after a night of excess in Juarez. Was it GREAT food? No. Was it even crave-worthy food? No. Was it the best slop you'll ever eat drunk? Hell, yeah.
Now, why would anyone in their right mind want to recreate that here in Austin? Like I said, it's an institution for El Paso folks and I can see the warm fuzzy factor (especially so close to 6th street).
So, I was curious and headed down to try them and came away with some very positive and negative results.
There was a stir up recently when Chico's sued over copyright, and I agree they absolutely were. C'mon, y'all, all I could think of when I walked in and saw the UTEP flag on the wall with the Bear and his team painted and "Chuco's Tacos" on the menu was "Coming to America's" McDowell’s. Really.
Parking is an absolute nightmare. Hubbers lapped the block and parking lot three times and was ready to give up completely until a spot suddenly opened.
Firstly, to its namesake item the Chico's - oops - Chuco's tacos. Three for $2.60, six for $4.95, about double what I remembering them costing in EP. The description is exact: taquitos smothered in cheese drenched with tomato sauce and topped with jalapeño sauce. They took about 20 minutes to come out (MUCH longer than expected) and were much larger than their inspiration, which explained the price increase. We decided they were a noteworthy imitation, down to the "welfare yellow cheese" that was dripping from them. However, the taquitos were less pencil like and more cigarello-esk, which isn't a bad thing. The sauce was absolutely more tomato-y. They were perfectly good for what they indented to be. I suspect they'll catch on as a novelty here in Austin with the community campus and 6th street being so close.
We also ordered some tacos. I should have ordered the chicken adobo, but opted for the steak taco and the carne asada. They were two separate tacos on the menu, but they ended up being identical in every way. You could get them corn, flour or whole wheat (interesting). I got them both corn. They arrived wrapped in two tortillas each and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cilantro. The tortillas were VERY greasy and completely disintegrated in the first bite. So much for that. The meat was extremely dry and tasteless. There are far better taco options in town. Would never come back based strictly on the tacos.
Now to the two highlights: The cool park table next to the creek - there's only one, but besides it being in the entrance to the parking lot, still is a nice place to sit. Second and I say this with all my heart, their salsas ROCK! I mean they're some of the best ones I've had in a while. We got one of each, and we devoured them all. I especially liked the "super hot" one, which wasn't, but very flavorful and had a rich, garlicky burn. I also liked their version of tomatillo sauce, which also had more of a kick than most here in town.
I suppose I might go back if I were in the area, but I'd go and just get chips and queso and order large bowls of their salsas.
As a ringing endorsement, anyone from El Paso will eat there with fond memories...and those who don't will gobble up the sauces.