By Vicki Paris Goodman
Have you ever had molcajete? I hadn’t. At least, not until I visited Tacos Don Chente for the first time recently.
Sam and I dropped by on a Friday evening expecting to find the usual Mexican fare. But a glance at the menu, and a few helpful recommendations from our waiter Christian, challenged us to spread our wings, venture out into the unknown, take a leap of faith.
Hence the molcajete ($15.99), a stone mortar (bowl) filled with Mexican sausage, grilled shrimp, chicken, well-done beef, and nopale (cactus). Plenty to share, the dish is a carnivore’s paradise accompanied by a nice hot salsa that morphed the meaty assortment into a spicy-food lover’s dream. I especially liked the Mexican sausage and nopale– the sausage for its bold and unusual flavor, the nopale for its unique texture. Some good Spanish rice and tasty refried beans came on the side.
Even though the molcajete would have satisfied the two of us, I had to have something crunchy. Christian suggested the flautas ($4.79), four deep-fried extra-thick crispy taquitos with choice of chicken, potato or beef inside. When Christian said we could mix them up, we did just that. The flautas arrived covered with cool shredded lettuce and a garnish of guacamole, sour cream and shredded cheese. Sam and I especially enjoyed the potato flauta.
Tacos Don Chente offers a wide variety of other Mexican specialties, including meal-size caldos (soups), seafood, burritos, quesadillas, tortas (sandwiches) and tacos. Some other unusual items that piqued my interest were the sopes, mulitas, and huaraches. According to Christian, these are all tostada-like affairs with the difference being in the thickness of the corn cake underneath the meat, cheese and vegetable topping. Definitely a reason to return.
The menu features a long list of fruit and vegetable juices, as well as smoothies. Sam opted for the sandia, which is a slightly sweetened watermelon juice. Very refreshing.
The restaurant also serves Mexican-style breakfast, like huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and huaraches con huevo. Most breakfast dishes are served with rice and beans on the side.
Tacos Don Chente is a family-friendly place that obviously takes great pride in offering its clientele something a little bit out of the ordinary. You certainly don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy the cuisine. But if you dare, something you’ve never tried before will probably call out to you.
Tacos Don Chente’s Long Beach branch is located at 101 W. Pacific Coast Hwy. Phone (562) 218-0500. Long Beach restaurant hours are Sunday-Thursday 8am-11pm; Friday and Saturday 8am-midnight. The chain has 11 branches throughout the southland.