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Chalateco

  • m

Chalateco is a local chain, currently up to 7 restaurants: 4 in San Jose and 1 each in Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Mountain View one. The Mountain View location just opened in an old Una Mas location on E. El Camino, very close to Sunnyvale.

The menu is large and was a bit bewildering to me, as I've had Salvadorean food maybe twice before. I did great with the chipotle pollo huarache. I also had a bean pupusa that was a little bland, but a nice foil to the spicy huarache. The cabbage dish that came with the pupusa was very tasty. The mixed fruit drink was also delicious. The chips and salsa that come out when you sit down are not so great - bagged chips, indifferent salsa - but everything picked up after that.

There are a few scattered reviews and mentions of various Chalateco's in Chowhound, but nothing that goes deep in the menu. With 7 locations, surely some folks have explored the huge menu in more depth? What else is particularly good here?

Michael

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    Chalateco
    825 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

    1. I've only been to the one on South 10th by the San Jose State campus, but I loved their mushroom tacos. The mushrooms were almost meaty, in a rich, spicy sauce.

      1. I stopped by today and was also bewildered by the huge menu. I stuck with the basics and ordered four tacos and a pupusa. I noticed a few different cuts that you don't find much elsewhere: sesos (brain), costilla (beef rib), suadero (explained as steak, but more tender).

        Tacos are $1.85 and served on two four inch tortillas garnished with plenty of cilantro, onions, and a bit of salsa. Lengua and suadero were very tender and beefy. I was surprised with the addition of bacon in my costilla taco, and enjoyed the smokiness with the crispy rib meat. Al pastor had a bright orange hue, with a prominent spicing and a subtle tartness, which all melded together in the small tender cubes of pork. I didn't see a spit but I read a report elsewhere about there being a spit during the grand opening.

        The server recommended the huge mega taco with three different cuts of meat (topped with al pastor) over onions, peppers, among other things. I think it was called the Alhambra special?

        I also tried the shrimp pupusa, which came out nicely browned in spots, with diced shrimp and plenty of cheese. I prefer a tarter curtido, but it did its part. It also came with a little cup of tomato sauce, which made it feel like eating a pizza.

        Chips are bagged like you said, but the salsa had a nice kick today. I'd absolutely come back for more tacos, and might even try the sesos!

        9 Replies
        1. re: DezzerSF

          Nice to hear about the shrimp pupusas, thanks!

          Btw, do you recall what the other pupusa choices were?

          1. re: sairuh

            Was the shrimp pupusa a special? It is not listed on their menu
            http://www.chalateco.com/page3general...

            Never saw paradillas (mixed tacos). Quite the sincronizada menu which basically are what most people consider quesadillas.

            You gotta love a place with a Hawaiian taco with pineapple in it.

            Anyone tried the tortas? The menu says the are real Mexico City style.

            Alambres means 'wires', as in 'barbed wire' and I haven't seen that variety before either.

            Hmmmm ... a pork chop burrito.

            Oooohhh ... queso fundido

            Anyone know what a tehuacán preparado is? The few web references are in Spanish only. That is a pricey Michalad prepardo, since I don't see shrimp on the picture.

            1. re: rworange

              I looked at some of those web references, and I see a reference to a tehuacan preparado as agua mineral una pizca de sal, y limon, or in other words, if my Spanish isn't failing me, simply a mineral water with a little salt and Mexican lime, apparently recommended as a hangover cure, This makes sense, as Tehuacan is a brand of mineral water.

              Would love to hear your report on the tortas....

              1. re: susancinsf

                Thanks. I thought my Spanish wasn't covering everything. Seemed too simple.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  I had a rather filling Turkish brunch today and never imagined I'd stop here. On the way back I was going to get some bottled water from McDonald and thought I could so better so I gave the tehuacan preparado a try. The in-house menu also says there is house made salsa with it.

                  I guess that amounted to chili powder. The large plastic mug (think old-time A&W mugs) had the top third outside rim rolled in the salt/chile mixture. In addition, chile was sprinkled on top. Don't know if tehuacan is as crisp or sparkly on its own but it was a very refreshing drink.

                  Michael is correct. The fruit drink (ensalada) was maybe the best enselada I've had. Sometimes Salvadoran restaurants get lazy and just make this drink with canned fruit cocktail ... that's it ... dump fruit cocktail in the glass of a sweet drink.

                  At Chalateco, it was an orange drink with finely minced seasonal fruit ... in this case delicious apples, granny smiths, oranges and maybe a few other fruits. There were huge plastic tubs of this drink and the horcata.

                  Also, when the online menu said there was more, no kidding. I take it back about it being a Mexican restaurant. It is clearly Salvadoran based. they even have Salvadoran tamales as part of the breakfast menu.

                  I also understand why everyone says that menu is confusing. I saw the online menu and I had trouble following the four huge laminated menu pages held together with a spiral binder. It is more layout than content. There are pictures of every dish with the ingredients in weird places.

                  So, stuffed as I was ... never had a shrimp pupusa. Had to try one. It came with chips and salsa.

                  Agree about the round chips - definately the bagged variety. The salsa was ok on my visit. .However I had one chip with salsa. Too full for more.

                  They gave me a lorroco pupusa by mistake. Just staring at the pupusa before the bite I knew it was going to be a challenge to eat it, so when it turned out to be lorroco, I sent it back. Bad move. The lorocco was better mainly because there was a lot and it had a nice flavor. The shrimp was chopped so fine and was not so generous. At first I thought it was a cheese-only pupusa. When I got to one tiny whole shrimp, it tasted of the frozen variety.

                  Everyone is right about bland. Hoever, I think that is either due to quick cooking or clean oil. It was the palest pupusa I've ever had. Still, the cheese was good and it was pleasant.

                  The curtido looked like it would be tasty ... with cabbage, carrots, flecks of red pepper and green oregano. However, the spices weren't that pronounced. It did its job. The tomato sauce had more tomato flavor than mosts.

                  Someone ordered the whole fried tilapia and it was huge.

                  The food gods stepped in to save me from myself. I had to man up, so to speak, just to finish that pupusa. Then I realize it is Sunday ... barbacoa day ... who knows if I'll be near one of these joints on a Sunday again ... I order it to go. The sever comes back and says they just ran out. I was sort of relieved and disappointed all at the same time.

                  I had a great helpful server. I really liked the place. It has Mexican rock videos playing. It is lively and funky all at the same time. Lots of young Latinos (in about their 20s).

                  I'd stop by again to try some of the other stuff. Had no room to even contemplate a torta which are really huge.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I should have warned you about the shrimp pupusa, as I didn't particularly enjoy it either. Sometimes when I try not to say anything bad, I tend to leave out my opinion. Sucks about the barbacoa.

                2. re: rworange

                  Don't think the shrimp pupusa was a special, as it was on their menu in house.

                  The torta is quite simply, huge. I easily got two meals out of it. You have to cut it in half with a knife to even pick it up. It comes with avocado, onions, pickled jalapenos, tomato, melted cheese and mayo on a nice bread, which I recall being slightly toasted. If I was in a sandwich mood, and feeling indulgent, I'd go for it again.

                  They have a cubana $11.99, which comes with milaneza, salchica, and pierna or a super cubana $12.99 with chorizo huevo added. A variety of meats together seems to be a common theme here. Combinada (two meats) is $11.25 and a regular torta is $10.25.

                  The pork chop is called chuleta, which I've never seen before either.

                  rw, you might want to get over there on the weekends, as they have barbacoa y consomme as a special.

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    Oh, now I must get down that way to give the barbacoa a try.

                3. re: sairuh

                  Pupusa choices are queso (cheese), revueltas (pork, fried beans, cheese), queso con loroco, frijol, frijol con queso, chicharron con queso, chicharron, chicharron con frijol, calabaza (zucchini), hongos (mushrooms), papas con chorizo, and camaron (shrimp).

              2. Though they have a few Salvadoran items like pupusas and a few other dishes, I don't believe this is a Salvadoran restaurant. That despite the name indicating the name is that of someone who is from Chalatenango, El Salvador. Sounds like a really good place to be ... from.
                http://www.lonelyplanet.com/el-salvad...

                The last page of the menu says it is Mexico City food "Mariscos estilo D.F. y tipica comida Chilango"

                Mexico, D.F. (district federal) is loosely the same as saying Washington D.C

                Chilango is slang for a person living in Mexico City
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilango

                Here's a Metroactive review that says the same ... Mexico City food with some Salvadoran. Mexico City has great queso fundido. Anyone tried it?
                http://www.metroactive.com/metro/03.2...

                Also that review has the best description of suerdo and saves me the hell of using search to find a post about it. "suadero ... a seldom-seen filling made from the rich, succulent meat cut from between beef ribs"

                Well, not all that rare if you frequent taco trucks. It, obviously, tastes like beef. I've never had suerdo that rose above beef ... also called 'rose meat'

                1 Reply
                1. re: rworange

                  I've only had suadero at Tacos El Gordo in Oakland, these were more tender. Funny thing is, the costilla is actually translated as beef rib here. When I asked the server if suadero was rib as well, he explained it as "like carne asada, but more tender."

                2. I tried a bean and pork pupusa and an al pastor gordita here. The gordita was quite bland and absolutely soaked in grease, while the pupusa was slightly less bland and greasy. I might return to try the barbacoa, which they said was the goat variety when I asked, but otherwise, Chalateco is a miss for me.