Chacho's is a 24-hour Mexican food restaurant with six locations in Houston and San Antonio. The location I went to was off of 45 at Tidwell, and if it looks like a Taco Cabana, it's because, I'm told, it used to be a Taco Cabana.
OK. I'm just as aware as you are that the title of this blog is arbitrary criticism, and that I've all but sworn not to grade an establishment on their food. But here's something most of you probably don't know about me: I've been in search of the world's best fish taco for what feels like decades. Up until now, the best fish taco I've ever had was at the Rainbow Cafe in the Houston Galleria, and I'm not just saying that to be ironic and white. (Actually I'm not even sure why I'm playing the race card, fish tacos definitely seem like the sort of things that were invented by white people who'd had Mexican food once on vacation in Texas.) Rainbow Cafe really does have delicious fish tacos. But let me tell you: none of the fish tacos I've ever eaten my whole life - not the ones that gave me my first taste of fishy goodness, at Cain and Abel's in Austin, not at Pappacito's, not at the restaurant inside Bass Pro Shop, not at the Cheesecake Factory, no, not even in the Rainbow Cafe - tasted as good as the fish tacos at Chacho's. All of them, restaurants KNOWN for their authentic Mexican food, and none of them as good as Chacho's. So when I give them a +54 for their fish tacos, it's not because I'm grading them on their food - I have too much integrity for that. Instead, my friends, I'm grading them on their ability to beat back dozens of competitors, named and unnamed, in the quest for the true award: Catherine Martin's Most Delicious Fish Taco. It's not the food that gets them the points, it's the award.
Now that we've got that controversial bit out of the way, let's move on to what I really loved about Chacho's: Their salsa bar. There's nothing I love more than a good salsa bar. Like any good American, I love things that are unlimited: unlimited night and weekend minutes, unlimited Friends reruns on TBS, and unlimited salsa at Mexican restaurants. A normal restaurant, they deliver your chips and salsa, you eat them, you converse, and then, oh no! You've consumed all your salsa before your food even arrives! What are you supposed to pour over your taco? Heaven forbid your waitress doesn't notice your lack of salsa and you have to actually ask her yourself. Luckily, Chacho's removes all those painful lost syllables: "Hey lady, we're outta salsa! Couldja bring us some more?" Here you don't have to suffer through actual communication - you can merely get up yourself, wander on over to the salsa bar, and try samples of dozens of different salsas! At Chacho's, you can eat a whole taco, each bite dipped in a different type of salsa! Who doesn't love that kind of self service variety? I'll admit that sometimes I go to Taco Cabana - in broad daylight, on weekdays - just for the salsa bar. I'm delighted to know that Taco Cabana can be re-regulated to midnight on weekends, and Chacho's can fill the empty salsa bar in my heart. +16 for the salsa bar.
Another thing that I thought was super great about Chacho's was the monitors they had posted around the restaurant. It's definitely a self-service joint - staff members will come to your table to take your plates, but food is served at a window and you're in charge of your own drinks (and, thankfully, salsa). Don't you hate that moment when you're waiting for your number to be called, and they skip from 38 to 40? Wait, you ask yourself. Did they call 39? Was I just passed out from hunger and didn't hear them? A lot of numbers tend to rhyme, and there's nothing more embarrassing than stepping up to the counter only to have somebody else grab away the food you thought was yours, swiftly taking it back to the safety of their own table. At Chacho's they eliminate this problem - the numbers they call are proudly displayed on monitors placed for your convenience around the interior of the restaurant. Not only does this alert you when your food is ready, but having monitors in the restaurant sidesteps the problem of having TVs in the restaurant. You never have to be sucked in to watching a sport you care nothing about. +13 for ingenuity and not forcing customers to watch table tennis.
No restaurant is completely perfect, however, and Chacho's came in the form of a shady looking man standing outside the front of their building, wearing sunglasses, his arms crossed over his chest. Who wears sunglasses at night? I'll tell you who. Drug dealers. Pimps. Landlords. All sorts of unsavory creatures. I thought I was going to have a thrilling encounter with a real villain, but when I came closer, I realized that he was instead wearing only 3D glasses. Not a criminal - just a hipster. -8 for disappointed dreams.
If you decide to go to Chacho's, make sure you try the fish tacos and let me know what you thought about them! All questions and comments can be directed, of course, to firstname.lastname@example.org.