I have no idea how long Conga (formerly known as Taco Rico) has been serving Salvadorian food down on Main Street (who else is singing Bob Seger now?) but I first realized it existed when it popped up on the Living Social (or maybe it was Groupon?) radar early last year. I scored a buy one get one free coupon in my Adventures in Dining coupon book. I drive by it every Wednesday when I drive to the farmers market, but Philip is never with me so it’s never an opportunity for dinner, and every time I think of it we aren’t in the mood, or else we just don’t want to drive down there. As if downtown Chattanooga is on the other side of the state….but when you live 30+ minutes from where you work, sometimes you just really don’t want to get near work on the weekends. A lot of times, actually.
Anyway, I was taking some family photos for a friend at the Choo-Choo then on Main. They decided to stop at the Terminal per our glowing recommendations and we headed back to the car to get our Conga coupon. We had heard glowing recommendations for Conga from three different people in the past week so we figured it was time. No one else was in the restaurant when we walked in and were seated immediately. I’ll say one thing….the server was very eager to take our order. She asked three times before we were ready! Anyway, we decided to order some fried plantains then felt a little puzzled when a basket of crispy fried plaintains (with a chip-like consistency) arrived at the table then minutes a later a plate of thicker-sliced, warm but not crisp plantains arrived with refried black beans and some creamy substance (crema perhaps????). Apparently the plantain chips are brought out just like chips & salsa at a Mexican joint. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor and texture of both (plantains are very similar to bananas in texture though only slightly similar in taste) and thought the beans and what.ever.that.creamy.stuff.was. were delicious. Philip liked the “chips” but, while he liked the flavor of the other plantains felt the texture was just too much like a banana (he hates the texture of bananas). There were also “sweet” fried plantains, fried yucca root, and more “standard” Latin appetizers like cheese dip and guacamole.
The menu is small but includes a few standards (tacos, a burrito, chicken tamales) as well as chicken or beef tortas (which I filed away to order for later, empanadas (basically a Latin stuffed turnover), and pupusas, thick masa cakes stuffed with cheese and other fillings (spinach, beans, pork & bean [which the menu calls “original”], pork, chicken, cilantro & onion, or carrot). I decided on the combo #1: one pupusa (I ordered spinach) with rice & beans. The pupusa was delicious, filled with delicious stringy cheese and spinach and seasoned perfectly. There was a slaw dressed with a vinegary dressing that I didn’t care for too much because it had a very strong oregano flavor. I like oregano in small doses but this was a bit much for me. The rice and beans were excellent; long grain white rice, seasoned with salt and not much else but cooked to a perfect bite, and beans with onion and cilantro, well-seasoned but not overpowering. Different from your average Mexican restaurant plate of refried beans & red rice. Mmmmm.
Philip went for a taco combo (2 tacos plus rice and beans) with an extra taco. He ordered a fish taco, a chorizo taco, and a pastor (pork) taco. The tacos come on your choice of corn or flour tortillas and he chose flour (you know I would have chosen corn, but they weren’t my tacos!). He bit into the fish taco, chewed for a moment, then said, “Oh MY,” and handed it to me. I took a bite and he said, “It takes a second to hit you.” Sure enough, the longer I chewed the more pronounced the flavor became. The fish was grilled and coated with some sort of heavenly seasoning. Amazing. The pastor taco was filled with chunks of deliciously seasoned pork, and the chorizo was mild, not greasy in the least, and wonderfully spiced. Philip ordered his tacos with cilantro and onion, which added a perfect accent to all three meats. Philip also loved the rice and beans.
A sign in the window proclaimed sweet crepes (filled with Nutella or other confections) for dessert, but we decided to walk down a couple of blocks to Velo to buy some lolly-pies from Sugar Pie (more on that later). There are also sangrias on the menu (which I always think look so delicious but I am sure I would hate them because I do not like wine) and bottled Latin versions of standard soft drinks (which means they are sweetened with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup). Of course, we had water, and that is my one complaint of the day: after bringing our food, our server was too preoccupied with whatever she was doing to come back and fill our drinks (and I was dying of thirst, so I drained my water). She was friendly, though, and I’m just going to assume was busy and off her game (other customers came in after we did and she was the only server, plus they were getting ready to end their lunch service). I thought the food was delicious and I will definitely go back. By the way, before our coupon was applied our total was about $20.
Conga Latin Food is located at 207 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408. You can call them at 423-201-4806. They do not have a Facebook page or website at this time.