EL PASO, Texas – El Paso, a part of the Lone Star State that has its own identity. Closer to Phoenix than it is to San Antonio, El Paso has an amazing southwestern Tex Mex style and nowhere is that more evident, than the food.
Chico’s Tacos is the go to taco joint in this part of the state that is literally on the border, or at least a few blocks away from it.
Maribel Martell has been a part of the Chico’s traditions since 2005.
“A lot of people love it,” Maribel says. “A lot of people from out of town that leave El Paso come back. This is the first place they stop.”
Since 1953, Chico’s Tacos has been a part of life in El Paso. Started by a local boxing promotor Joe Mora, the menu was simple, cash was the only form of payment accepted and nothing has changed.
“Started making tacos in like a little shack,” Maribel informed us. “They would put out the food through the little window, make burgers and tacos, and they got big.”
Now these tacos aren’t the type of tacos most Texans are used to. These rolled up refreshments resemble more of a taquito than a taco.
They’ll go, ‘I ordered tacos.’ I’ll go, ‘Those are the tacos,’ and they ask but I want those hard shell ones. I’m like nope. I convince them. I tell them, ‘Try them,’ and they’re convinced and they love them and come back,” Maribel said.
These little tacos are covered in a sauce that simply put is stunning. Esteban Ortega is one of the cooks that puts together this simple dish.
It all starts with some freshly fried up tacos filled with beef, onions, and spices put in a boat and bestowed with boiling hot sauce.
So what’s in the secret sauce? Apparently, that’s going to remain a secret.
“Yeah, nobody’s going to get it,” Esteban informed us. “No.”
At least they’ll let you have it any way you want it, including in cup. Some even order the sauce like a bowl of soup.
“They dip their fries in there,” Esteban says. “They use it as a dip.”
Once we had learned all we could about the sauce, it was time to check out the whole taco.
These little tacos are just sitting here soaking in that Chico’s sauce almost like a hot tub for these beautiful tasty treats. These aren’t taquitos. They’re tacos, keep that in mind. They are just soaked with that sauce making them nice and soft.
Over 60 years of history sort of hit the palate all at once when I took that first bite, and it was like a big warm embrace.
The sauce is money. The taquitos very good, but it’s definitely the sauce that’s soaking into that taco and getting all that spicy flavor soaked into the taco to make it terrific.
“Got to admit, it’s not the fanciest, but it’s that what make it even better,” Chico’s regular, Omar, says.