Mad Hungry

The little things in life make each day memorable. Things like an extra shot of espresso in your latte from that friendly barista. Or, YouTube videos that tug at those heart strings, like this one. And, even announcements from a favorite musician about their upcoming album release date. Most of the time, for me, food are those little things. Things like tacos.

After finishing the Sacramento Bee’s raving review of Chando’s taco stand a few Sundays ago, I suggested, ok more like requested, that Jonathan and I drive over there for lunch.  It’s all I wanted, the only item on my agenda for the day.

But the giddy feeling of excitement kicking inside of me quickly quieted when I saw the mass of people shrouding the taqueria.

The line in front of Chando's that day.

And, it’s no wonder that the line stretched for half a block. Sac Bee critic Blair Anthony Robertson boldly states, “These days, less than a year in, Chando’s is making what just might be the best tacos, burritos and quesadillas in town – perhaps from here to Tijuana.” That single sentence had me on my feet. When you live in a state teeming with decent Mexican food restaurants, that’s the ultimate compliment.

Plus, the guy eats food for living. It’s hard, for me anyways, not to trust his palate, especially when a week prior his unfavorable review of the popular Tower Café accurately captured my own feelings about the place. (Though, I will say that some of the breakfast entrees are decent.)

The vacant gas station across from Chando's.

The line didn’t scare me off at first, but it hardly budged, and we moved maybe 2 feet in a span of 20 minutes. Chando himself, Lisidro Madrigal, made a brief appearance to thank everyone for their patience. When we made the decision to brave the crowd, we made the mistake of assuming that it would be a short wait. We were fools to think that you would get fast food from a taco stand.  But that’s not to disparage Chando’s, sometimes you have to wait in life.  Unfortunately, our stomachs weren’t as understanding and the continuous chorus of “everyone must of read the article” wore tiresome.  This leads me to say that I disagree with Robertson when he says you should arrive hungry because you probably won’t make it to the window to place your order.

But, he’s onto something by recommending the taco trio, which we ordered the following day with Jonathan’s mom in tow and our new friend Todd who was off to get Greek food for his “honey dew” after the epic wait for his own meal. (The people you meet in lines. Surprisingly, the day before I met another woman named “Keli” in line at the Natomas Michaels craft store.) The thing about bold statements from restaurant critics along with crowds that seem to only swell as a result of stagnant service is that they trigger a sweaty-palm feeling of suspense.  Will the food be that good? Was it worth the 45-minute wait?

I would say yes, yes, and yes. But, do they outdo all other taquerias in California? I’m not so sure I can make that declaration. I’m a fish tacos kind of girl. That’s my go-to dish at any Mexican restaurant if they offer them. The ones at Chando’s are phenomenal, as the fish is moist and freshly flavored with a citrusy marinade and drizzle of crema. And, the other tacos I ordered, the chicken and adobado, were also delicious with tender meat cooked in an agreeably spicy sauce. And for those with finicky thresholds for spicy food, you can’t go wrong with an order of horchata or an orange Fanta if sweetened rice milk isn’t your thing. Chando’s recipes successfully satisfy one’s appetite without ever nearing that state of gluttony often suffered at other Mexican eateries at places like Tres Hermanas or El Torrito (dare I even compare them to chains restaurants).

The chicken taco.

And, just in time to serve the new throngs of patrons, Madrigal will open a second Chando’s this spring in midtown. No word on exactly where yet.

Best taqueria north or the border or not, it’s encouraging to see another fine eatery open in Sacramento. From making Forbes’ list of most miserable cities in the country to losing its only professional franchise team, any little boost to its ego is worth celebrating. And, for about $6 for a tray of tacos and a beverage, I can’t think of any other place that can match that kind of quality meal.

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