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Kristine Xu is a journalism freshman and Mustang News food columnist.
As a staple in the diet of the Mustang News staff (in part because of its Thursday $4 40 0z beer deal), it was finally time I tried Chino’s Rock and Tacos. Because I had skipped the gym that week, I reluctantly hopped onto my bike and zipped downtown for dinner.
I walked through the familiar alleyway between Marsh and Higuera streets where Chino’s is located and double-locked my bike near Barnes & Noble before walking toward the small restaurant. As the sky grew dark, the warm light from inside drew me to the door with promises of delicious Mexican cuisine.
When I first heard about Chino’s, I understood it was a restaurant serving Mexican food, but was curious why “rock” was included in the restaurant’s name. I found out through a little research online that Javier Cadena, the restaurant’s founder, toured across the nation with his band for several years and even performed at Warped Tour. Shown by the excellent service and delicious food, it is apparent that his legacy has continued on today.
The cashier smiled at me from behind the counter and waited patiently as I silently debated between dishes in my head. Had there been tamales, I would have ordered those without hesitation. Instead, I ordered two grilled Mahi tacos with a side of beans and rice.
The inside of Chino’s was themed yellow and red, with a matching gold and scarlet bike hanging haphazardly from the ceiling near the cash register and kitchen. I grabbed a cup of water and sat down at a table just near enough to the bike to admire it. Not too long after, the same server came by and dropped off a basket of chips and mild salsa in a stone bowl.
After a long day of doing nothing at my desk, I realized suddenly how ravenous I was and started eagerly attacking the chips and salsa. Fortunately, since I was trying my hardest not to finish the bowl before the food arrived, I did not have to wait long before the server saved me from a regretful experience.
She placed a heavy ceramic plate steaming with delicious food in front of me and offered to get me anything else before she left. I unwrapped the paper sleeve from the napkin and picked up one of the soft-shelled tacos, sinking my teeth into the tender meat of the fish and tortilla. I typically prefer soft-shelled tacos because it is easier to manage all the bits of food in the taco without worrying about its shell cracking and making a mess.
Photo by Kristine Xu
The distinct and enjoyable flavor of the grilled Mahi was in each bite of the taco, mixed with the crisp shredded lettuce and juicy diced tomatoes. I appreciated the heaping mounds of vegetables that accompanied my meal, and made a feeble mental note to eat more salads in the upcoming week.
I dabbed a spoonful of salsa into the second taco and tried the new combination, noting its vibrant and fresh flavors. After relishing the last bits of the tacos, I finished up the rice and beans that were left over and scraped my plate clean.
As typical of any college town, Chino’s offers great deals such as “Nacho Mama Thursdays” for $4 nachos and beer and “Taco Tuesdays” for crisp $1 tacos that will tempt me back for more food in the future.