Tag Archives: nopal

REVIEW – Chunga’s (Provo)

Taco enthousiast Jason checks out the Chungas official vehicle as a woman prepares her daughter for stroller travel

Taco enthousiast Jason checks out the Chunga's official vehicle as a mother prepares her child for stroller travel

Chunga’s (Provo)
664 N. Freedom Blvd.
Provo, UT
(801) 607-1570

5 out of 5 stars

In 2008 I first ate at a little restaurant called Chunga’s in Salt Lake.  That night I met the owner Gilberto who is an incredibly nice gentleman.  We ate and laughed.  I even cut a cake with them that evening and found a plastic Jesus inside.  That night Gilberto told me that he hoped I enjoyed the food since he was already planning to open a second location in Provo.

I fell in love that night with the delicious array of tacos and other offerings that Gilberto and his crew were serving up and I vowed that night to travel all the way to Provo (not a small feat for those less brave) to visit his location there to ensure the same level of quality and write a review of the location.

Let me just skip ahead and tell you that the tacos you get at this Provo location are the same delicious tacos we have come to know and love from the Salt Lake location.

I arrived at the restaurant with my taco enthousiast amigos as part of the second and final round of a Taco Showdown of taco restaurants in Provo.  The first round was not bad, but failed to live up the taco hype we had traveled for.  My amigos seemed a bit nervous.  Were we about to end this taco adventure on a high note?  I could tell from their demeanor that they were not sure how this was all going to turn out.  However none of the taco enthousiasts in our crew had eaten at either Chunga’s location below.

Taco enthousiast Quinn points for all viewing to check out his nopal (cactus) taco he is about to enjoy

Taco enthousiast Quinn points for all viewing to check out his nopal (cactus) taco he is about to enjoy

Once again I ordered an Al Pastor and a Carnitas burrito to hold the variety of tacos constant to compare to the other round of the Taco Showdown.  Meanwhile my fellow taco enthousiasts ordered a full battery of tacos ranging from the lengua (tongue) to the Al Pastor to the nopal (cactus).  We sat down and sipped on our delicious fruit aguas and watched Mexican soap operas on the TV as we waited for our tacos to arrive.

Jason starts counting how many tacos he intends to devour

Jason starts counting how many tacos he intends to devour

I sat back and watched my compatriots as they took their first bite of the Al Pastor.  I sat back and watched them taking their first bites of an experience which reminded me of first bites of a true Al Pastor I had on the streets of Mexico city.  One by one they started smiling and it was clearly agreed that this taco adventure was a complete success.  Our trip to Provo, although treacherous, had not been in vain.  It was immediately decided that there was no contest as to the winner of this particular Taco Showdown as it was evident that Chunga’s was the winner.

We tried a few of the different tacos available at Chunga’s.  The nopal was another crowd favorite and taco enthousiast Quinn and Jason ordered a few more at the counter to prolong our taco experience as long as their stomachs would allow.  Although he is probably not ready for the famous 27 Taco Challenge at Chunga’s which was attempted by taco enthousiast Seth, Jason was the winner of the most tacos eaten trophy.  I can’t remember how many he ate in total, but I certainly do remember being impressed.

Taco enthousiast Jason cools his tongue with a cucumber after eating a large number of tacos

Taco enthousiast Jason cools his tongue with a cucumber after eating a large number of tacos

As we left the restaurant, we were presented coupons for a free taco.  We had not mentioned that we were taco journalists, but still we were treated and fed like kings that night.  The great folks at Chunga’s are always warm an inviting — no matter whether you are a taco journalist or not.

So the next time you are in Provo dropping off a family member at the MTC, stop by Chunga’s.  Treat yourself to a taste of real Mexico City.  It’s a lot like Provo… Just with a few more people…

While visibly displaying his own internal critical analysis, taco enthousiast Dave decides that the tacos exceed his expectations.

While visibly displaying his own internal critical analysis, taco enthousiast Dave decides that the tacos exceed his expectations.

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REVIEW – El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

El Jaripeo Restaurant

1259 South Redwood Road

3.5 stars out of 5

Prepare yourself for a jaripeo (rodeo) of delicious specialties from Mexico.  What you find at El Jaripeo is different from most other Mexican restaurants around Salt Lake City.  First, you need to realize that the standard fare you might be tempted to order from other joints is probably not going to be the specialty of the house.  Printed in cool new green text on the front is Comida Oaxaqueña. So after a bit of spanish spelling gymnastics, it’s certain that the specialties of the house come from the city and state of Oaxaca,  a beautiful part of Mexico with its own special brand of cuisine unlike the rest of Mexico.

In the many years I have been enjoying Mexican food in this building, there have been several murals of a woman making tortillas.  This is the one that is currently standing.

In the many years I have been enjoying Mexican food in this building, there have been several murals of a woman making tortillas on this very wall. This is the one that is currently standing.

El Jaripeo’s building is one with a history of Mexican restaurants.  Most recently it was called Guelaguetza which was also a restaurant which served up Oaxacan delicacies.  While many of the menu items have remained the same, some of them have changed.  When I asked, I was also told that the owners are completely new but they are also from Oaxaca and I was told that the same menu items which I had previously tried at Guelaguetza would taste differently now given the difference in recipes.  Given the difference in recipes, Noyen and I asked for recommendations of their best items.  I ordered the Empanadas with mole amarillo and Noyen got the Burrito Zapoteco with grilled cactus leaves.

My Empanada de mole amarillo

My Empanada de mole amarillo

Before I talk about how my empanada was, it’s important to talk about a few of the items that you can get here.  First of all, the horchata (here’s a picture of Noyen’s) is homemade with nuts and melons mixed in.  It’s a delicious treat and a nice change from the horchata from most restaurants and comes from a fountain.  On the topic of drinks, you can also get Champurrado here.  This drink is not for everybody as it’s very thick drink typically mixed with hominy flour.  I usually don’t like thick drinks like this one (it’s practically a meal) but after being dared to drink it by my students at the Guadalupe School, I have developed a taste for it.  Also for the adventurous types you can actually order chapulines here (grasshoppers are a delicacy and popular in Oaxaca).  Another dish I have tried before is the Nopal Zapateco which is a dish of grilled cactus, which I and some co-workers have found to be delicious.

Now Oaxaca is known as the “land of seven moles” and there are several to choose from at El Jaripeo.  After asking our waiter, I decided on trying the empanada with mole amarillo.  Most mole amarillos I have tried have been very hot and flavorful but this one was not very hot at all.  The flavor was good, but not overpowering.  Still, I would have liked a bit more interesting flavor in my mole.  Noyen’s mole negro on his burrito was delicious.  I would say that while it is not as good as Red Iguana, it’s a close second.  The homemade tortillas were delicious.  Very warm and a nice amount of toasting to them.  Also on sale at the restaurant are tortillas and “pasta de mole negro” so you can take some stuff home and have your own little festival de moles at home.

Here is a mural which is still around from the previous restaurant.  Guelaguetza is an annual celebration in the city of Oaxaca.

Here is a mural which is still around from the previous restaurant. Guelaguetza is an annual celebration in the city of Oaxaca.

The service was excellent and much improved over the slow and sometimes frustrating service we had previously grown accustomed to with Guelaguetza.  Our waiter was very polite and made great recommendations.  He’s also a fan of metal which I personally appreciate.  After reading about the previous incarnation of El Jaripeo (3500 S) on another blog, I read about a waiter who liked Slayer shirts.  So I asked him if he was the guy at the other location who liked Slayer. He said that it could easily been him and he lifted up his shirt to reveal a pretty damn cool Slayer shirt underneath.  So you will be in good hands.

Overall, the food was not as great as I have tasted in other restaurants and could be less dry and more flavorful.  However, there are not many other restaurants in town which serve up some of these delicacies from Oaxaca so I would definitely recommend it.  Make sure to leave comments if you do try it out and let us know what you think.

More reviews to come next week…