|All photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved|
Chago's Cantina has to be one of the more quietly intriguing of the Gringo Taco series restaurants. First, its location alongside the heart of the Belmont College campus is enough to keep many Nashvillians away. On top of that it's a little hard to define; owner Chad Head unashamedly chucks authenticity out the garage door windows in favor of the multitude of flavors he picked up in Southern California, New Orleans, and various parts of Latin America. In so doing, he goes beyond the typical tacos/enchilladas/etc., and offers wider treats; the top two spots on the menu are given to Ceviche (raw fish, cured by citrus juices — think of it as Latin America's answer to Sushi) and Salvadoran Papusas. For this trip, though, I stuck with the traditional ... after all, the main point of the Gringo Taco series is leaving the comfort zone one baby step at a time.
I started with Chago's Cantina Dip sampler. Although the initial chips and salsa that were delivered to me, upon being seated, would have been just fine as an appetizer (the smoky, red, house salsa is excellent and unique), I wanted to taste what else was up for grabs and am glad I did. The pico de gallo was okay; queso better than the average; guacamole was on the bland side for me, even after I tarted it up with some additional lime juice; the green sauce was stellar and had a kick, the waiter told me, that comes from the addition of ancho chiles.
As I was dining solo, there was no way I was able to finish all the sauces but what was left of the green sauce did come home with me, in a little cup.
For my main treats, I ordered a simple chicken taco and quesadilla. Both came with Chago's grilled and seasoned meat, the taco adding truck-style onions and cilantro, the quesadilla utilizing more of the yummy cheese dip.
Overall, I like the place, it's solid — although I didn't have anything that knocked my socks off, the food tastes very fresh. If it were closer to my neighborhood I'd be here more often, and would definitely play more with the international menu items. At Happy Hour prices, the margarita is fine.
Service was initially shaky. At one point, my waiter went missing for too long and I had to get up and leave the patio to find him inside. After that he shaped up and was much more adequately attentive for the rest of the meal.
Chago's Cantina - $$ - 2015 Belmont Blvd Nashville, TN 37212