REVIEW – Chunga’s

Chungas.  This is the place you go.  For real tacos.  Street taco style.  Mexico City style.

Chunga's. This is the place you go. For real tacos. Street taco style. Mexico City style.

Chunga’s

180 S 900 W

5 out of 5 stars

KABOOM!  First 5 star rating on http://www.slctacos.com.  This is the restaurant I was talking about before which I believe has the best Tacos al Pastor in Salt Lake City.  I try them in every stand and restaurant I go to.  These are the best I’ve had in Salt Lake and they stand up the tacos al pastor I’ve tried in my voyages across Mexico.  I have tried pastor all over Mexico.  From Nogales to Guadalajara.  From Acapulco to Mexico City.  From Merida to Taxco.  From Puebla to San Juanito (donde esta ese pueblito????)

A few months ago my good amigo Ruben told me that he heard about this place from family members.  Ruben is from a city which is very close to Mexico City so while he is no chilango, he is no stranger to what a good taco al pastor is.  I tried them the first night and I was blown away.  I couldn’t stop eating.  I immediately felt an amistad with the cooks, servers, and owner.  This place makes you feel at home.

Taco enthousiast (and co-worker) Jeff cant wipe the damn smile off his face as he eats tacos at Chungas.  He was recently quoted as saying The chicken tacos were good.  But when I tried the al pastor it was like I was transported... to another planet.  I recorded that on my phone.  Because I am a professional taco journalist.

Taco enthousiast (and co-worker) Jeff cant wipe the damn smile off his face as he eats tacos at Chungas. He was recently quoted as saying "The chicken tacos were good. But when I tried the al pastor it was like I was transported... to another planet." I recorded that on my phone. Because I am a professional taco journalist.

Since I didn’t want to fly off the handle I decided to curb my taco emotions and try the place again.  And again.  And again.  Already this place has become the new favorite restaurant of all my co-workers.  Last time I walked in the door I saw two tables of co-workers I didn’t intend on seeing there.  Word of mouth has been carrying the name CHUNGA’S around the hallways.

Like I said, I have been back to Chunga’s at least weekly (3 times last week) to make sure that I was not mistaken in this review.  I have tried many of the standard items on the menu like tacos al pastor and chicken tacos.  After trying most everything on the menu by this point, I highly recommend the huaraches.  At least once.  What are huaraches? Meaning “sandal”, you can see the resemblance with its oblong shaped cornmeal frybread covered with your choice of meat (get the pastor), sour cream, and covered in queso de oaxaca.  Whoa.  I’ve tried several other of the antojitos shown on the posterboard below but I have many yet to try.  The nopales are delicious.  The quesadillas are wonderful.  But my heart flutters and my mouth waters thinking of the tacos al pastor.

A list of the antojitos served at Chungas.  This sheets is posted on the side out of direct sight.  Antojitos are little desires or fancies.  These are the specialties at Chungas.  Try some of these at your own risk.

A list of the antojitos served at Chunga's. This sheets is posted on the side out of direct sight. "Antojitos" are little desires or fancies. These are the specialties at Chunga's. Try some of these at your own risk.

Pick up a card at Chunga’s and after reading the name and address on the front, you flip it to the back and you read “El Famoso Taco Al Pastor Del Distrito Federal“.  This is indeed the same famous taco which is an institution in Mexico City.  If you talk to many mexicanos in our city, they will tell you that if someone claims to make a good taco al pastor, they must be from Mexico City.  Such is the case.  The cooks here know their stuff because they are indeed from that giant sprawl of a city.  The tacos usually have their sauces and veggies pre-loaded.  They are ready to go.  Not much needs to change except the optional limes provided on your plate to squeeze on if that’s your style.  Cucumber slices are also provided as a post-taco refreshment.

As a test to see if these are really authentic tacos from the D.F. last week I brought my father (papa de Burgersmoke) with me to try the place out.  We have a tradition of checking out various new Mexican restaurants since he once lived for several years in Mexico City.  After ordering and receiving a warm welcome from our server, we sat down and prepared ourselves.  When the tacos al pastor arrived, the eyes of papa de Burgersmoke rolled into the back of his head.  He didn’t speak for a few more bites.   When he spoke again he said, “when I eat these tacos I instantly feel like I am in the middle of Mexico City.”  Case closed.

Papa de Burgersmoke giving his thumbs up approval of the Mexico City style Tacos al Pastor.

Papa de Burgersmoke giving his thumbs up approval of the Mexico City style Tacos al Pastor.

If you get a chance to meet Gilberto the owner of the restaurant, make sure ot say hello.  He is an incredibly friendly guy and he is passionate about providing a higher quality taco.  He claims you will not find any fat in the meat.  He is right.  He shops around to find high quality meat and you will notice the difference.   Also, he loves a challenge.  Make sure to ask him about the 27 taco challenge.  If you think you can handle it, order them up and if you can eat 27+ tacos in 45 minutes with only one drink, you and your family eat for free.  Several people have done it and Gilberto laughs out loud talking about it.  He even says that he is often surprised by americanos like me who aren’t very big that can put away that many tacos.  So someone try it.  Tell us about it.  I want this website to be a website of champions.

Taco enthousiast Jaren is a champion, but I doubt he could east more than 10 tacos in a sitting let alone 27.  For shame...

Taco enthousiast Jaren is a champion, but I doubt he could east more than 10 tacos in a sitting. Let alone 27. For shame...

It’s because of restaurants like this one that I decided to re-launch my career in taco journalism.

So go check it out.  It’s only a few blocks away from Red Iguana.  You’ll feel a lot more at home, you’ll eat well and you won’t have to wait in the cold for your table.

They are also opening up a new location in Provo.  The opening will be sometime during the week of Feb 16-20.  If you’re in Provo, check out the new location at :

664 North Freedom Blvd

Gilberto tells me that he just might invite the public to eat for free on the day before the opening to give a chance to experience the quality of the tacos and their meat.  If you live down there, please go check it out and report.  We would love pictures and reviews of the new location.

31 responses to “REVIEW – Chunga’s

  1. I totally made Noyen come to my house and click the “PUBLISH” button on this one. That’s the way we work at http://www.slctacos.com.

    Democracy.

    We turned the keys. High fived. Then we laughed and both slid down the firepole together here at slctacos.com headquarters (you should see it… it’s DELUXE!!!)

    Now we’re running from the firepole out to the taco-mobile to get a bite to eat.

    Go get some Chunga’s and tell us what you think!

  2. I’m so there! Can’t wait.

  3. The first time I drove by Chunga’s and saw the pineapple in the window I almost gave myself whiplash! I LOVE this place. Best ever. Awesome review.🙂

  4. I’m salivating! If I wasn’t in Park City at work I’d be at Chunga’s right now!

  5. I took my dad for lunch there this afternoon. The taco combo plate al Pastor, the hot sauce was good the pico d gallo mediocre but only as there is nowhere to buy a good tomato in the wintertime. The chips were a little on the greasy side but ok, there was a white sauce that also came with the chips it was good but reminiscent of a spicy ranch dressing. But the tacos, The tacos were outstanding the al Pastor was a little bit sweeter than I am used to at Taco’s Daniel which for me has always been the bar.

    I told them Kelly sent me for the best al Pastor in Salt Lake and got comped 2 cokes. lol.

    All things considered I give them a 4.8 out of 5 and I will def be going back for a try of some of the antojitos on the menu.

  6. Chuck Heston

    You can’t stop eating them because their made of Soylent Green! Just ask to see their raw ingredients, you will be denied! It can’t be that good unless they put something in it that is illegal to keep you coming back… just think about it.

  7. You know, I thought the Pastor Taco was way too sweet. The Sudor was great though (I think that’s what it was called, but then again, is it really a sweaty taco? i have no idea…).

  8. Danielle-

    Yea, the pastor is very sweet. It’s definitely not for everyone. It’s much sweeter than most other pastor creations.

    HAHAHA!! I thought the same thing when I saw “Sudero” listed and it grossed me out. Seems as though it’s got to be a typo since beef brisket usually has an ‘A’ in there : “Suadero”

  9. You know what, it was pretty hard to get a good taco al pastor in Provo until this place opened up. It’s the real deal. To be honest I went there nine times in a ten day period and three times already this week, and in no way is that depressing.

  10. no ma la neta que ricos tacos, osea no es porque trabaje ahi ni nada de nada, sino porque sinceramente esta bien rica la comida en la taqueria el Chungas, es comida originaria de la ciudad de mexico. y como muchos han comentado es dificil poder encontrar en el pais en el que residimos autentica comida de donde somos, pero en la taqueria chungas he podido encontrar el mismo sabor (claro sin las vacterias que tenemos en la comida de las taquerias de mexico jeje) especialmente en los tacos al pastor. les recomiendo totalmente que visiten este lugar lo antes posible y les prometo que van a querer regresar lo antes posible.

  11. Great stuff! I’ve had a great experience both times I’ve been there and will continue to go in the future. The al pastor is amazing.

  12. Best tacos al pastor I’ve had since I’ve been to Mexico. It has always been a dissapointment to find to eat at other places claiming to be Mexican food but this place delivers taste,service,and authentic food. Also if you are in provo check them out there aswell.

  13. Hannah pedersen

    I’ve been to several Mexican taco restaurants and this is by far the best taco al pastor i’ve tasted in Utah. Their salsa verde and taco al pastor is so tasty that I keep coming back every week for more.

  14. Alfredo Salazar

    This has been by far the best mexican food I’ve had in a long time. The Tacos al pastor are delicious as well as their “huarache.” I recommend anyone that wants to get a taste of real mexican food to come and enjoy Chungas

  15. Hannah Pedersen

    I’ve been to several Mexican Restaurants, but this is by far the one with the best tasting al pastor tacos I’ve had here in Utah. Their salsa verde, burritos, and tacos are so tasty that I keep coming back every week for more. I would highly recommend for those that enjoy Mexican food to visit Chunga’s and taste their unforgettable al pastor tacos.

  16. Of all the taco shops in Provo that try to serve tacos al pastor, CHUNGA’s finally does it right. The tacos are exactly like you would find in Mexico City, and the Torta was way delicious. Best taqueria in Utah Valley! It could use a little more decoration though, make it feel more like el DF.

  17. David Newlin

    Chunga’s is brilliant. The tacos al pastor were juicy, not too spicy, and perfectly flavored, and it was a relief to see some actual queso fresco on my plate instead of that awful orange wax that passes for cheese at other places. I went to the Provo location, and they were incredibly nice. They offered me a free taste, and were extremely attentive. This place kicks the pants off of Diego’s al pastor, and I love Diego’s. I’ll be going back frequently for sure.

  18. Rodrigo Villordo

    Como buen Mexicano he ido a todos los restaurantes de comida Mexicana en Provo, y aunque todos hacen un gran esfuerzo al cocinar la comida mexicana, ninguno se compara con Chunga’s. La calidad de la comida y el servicio fueron mucho mas de lo que yo esperaba. En verdad que me hicieron recordar el sazon de nuestra buena comida Mexicana.

  19. Krystal Downs

    I really like mexican food, i can say that it’s one of my favorite meals. Ive never had tacos al pastor, untill i went to this restaurant in provo , Chungas. the food is amazing at this place and the service too. I have some mexican friends that say that this is the best mexican restaurant in the hole state. I really recommend this restaurant

  20. es la primera vez ke como unos tacos como los del distrito federal tenia como 10 anos ke no comia unos tacos tan esquisitos como los del chungas,y dedes ke conoci este lugar es mi favorito,ya ke solo tengo dos lugares para comer,cuando cocina mi suegra y cada vez ke vengo a salt lake ,ya ke yo vivo en wyoming, deberia de poner uno es wyoming,por ke su comida es autentica y deliciosa,ya ke podria comer todos los dias tacos alpastor.

  21. patrick gabbitas

    the best mexican food for the price I’ve ever eaten thanks for taking pride in your store and food

  22. James Afleck

    While I was getting my car looked at in the same strip mall as Chunga’s in provo, I asked the man if there was anywhere to get something to eat around there, he said there was a Mexican place and a Chinese place. Obviously I chose the Mexican place. I’ve been to a number of Mexican places around here but this one was by far the best. I had the tacos al pastor and ordered the mango juice. Both were delicious and I was very impressed at how large the mango juice was as well. I would recommend this place to anyone. I have already recommended it to a few friends. It’s nice authentic Mexican restaurant with some great food at a great price. Go there you won’t be disappointed.

  23. Kimberlee Flores

    We have bee searching for some really good tacos al pastor out of Mexico since they are my favorite kind when I go to Mexico. These taste exactly like the ones in Mexico!! Very good, Highly recomended!!!

  24. gracias por dejar q ponga mi comentario

  25. eduardo garcia

    quericos y deliciosos estan sus tacos son los mejores en toda la region

  26. veronica monroy

    al provar sus tacos me hicieron recorda cuando deje mi tierra sus tacos tienen un sazon unico queno tienen nadien sigan asin y nocambien su sabor gracias por habri su taqueria

  27. Disparaging The Red Iguana on a blog about Mexican food in Salt Lake easily disqualifies you as an expert on anything, not just Mexican food.

  28. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for reading. I am confused about your comment. How exactly did I disparage The Red Iguana? I don’t know how I could have because I love that restaurant. Still, as a taco journalist with several honorary degrees in taco academia, it is my duty to report about tacos wherever we may find them.

    If I somehow communicated that I do not love Red Iguana, you need to tell me how.

    Thanks!

  29. Hi Kelly,

    I interpreted this paragraph to be critical of the Red Iguana:

    “It’s only a few blocks away from Red Iguana. You’ll feel a lot more at home, you’ll eat well and you won’t have to wait in the cold for your table.”

    To me at least, you seem to be strongly implying that Chunga’s is a better alternative to Red Iguana because (to use your exact words):

    (1) “You’ll feel more at home”
    (2) “you’ll eat well”
    (3) “you won’t have to wait in the cold for your table”

    Now you don’t say anything specifically critical about the food at the Red Iguana, which is not a “taco restaurant” per se, and therefore a rather odd comparison to an al pastor specialty place (kind of like comparing a place that serves only pho to a Vietnamese restaurant with a full menu) so I’ll give you that, however you invite the comparison and imply it, at least to me. If I interpreted you incorrectly forgive me, but I don’t think it’s a crazy reading of your text.

    Regarding (my reading of) your criticism of the Red Iguana, I can only say I’ve found the opposite to be true. I feel very at home there, at both locations, and even know some of the long-time waiters by name. I also am rarely cold when I wait outside because they have generously provided many gas heaters. Few restaurants in the city have been as gracious.

    Regarding the food. I lived in Mexico City and have travelled around Mexico as well. And I’ve honestly never found a restaurant replicate the quality and variety of a certain dish than the Red Iguana replicates authentic Mexican mole. Many of my friends from Mexico agree.

    I’m sure you do too, and it’s a misunderstanding. But I was just going by what I thought was a reasonable inference from what you wrote.

    My question is, why invite the comparison at all? Chunga’s can be it’s own thing.

  30. Hi Scott-

    Thanks for bringing some good healthy discussion to SLC Tacos. The question you ask at the very end is a good one. Why make the comparison to Red Iguana. My answer is quite simply this : As a taco journalist it is my duty to let the public know about delicious restaurants that may be less known in the general public. I love Red Iguana, but people ask me all the time for alternatives. Some say this because of the wait. Others want more adventure.

    Thus the comparison. I would say it’s just presenting an alternative.

    Also, I repeat that I love Red Iguana to death but I still stand by each of those statements about Chunga’s as truth. A taco lover will eat well at both but I do feel more at home at Chunga’s and I love dodging any kind of wait.

    So tell me, Scott, how did you like Chunga’s? Have you had a better al pastor in Salt Lake?

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