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Mar 31, 2010 12:44 PM

authentic (nonchain) Mexican food in Knoxville?

I owe my mother a birthday dinner, and she loves Mexican food. Any decent options in Knoxville or Maryville?

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  1. My out of town family went to Senor Taco over Christmas and liked the margaritas and salsa bar. I too would like to know about a good, non chain place.

    Senor Taco
    3325 N Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37917

    5 Replies
    1. re: LGD

      I'm a fan of Senor Taco, but some guests might not approve of the atmosphere as much as others. (It's crowded and rather hole-in-the-wall, housed in a former Pizza Hut, but it does have a big menu variety, a salsa bar, and even some authentic items like a tongue burrito.)

      You might also try Agave Azul in Western Plaza (across from Fresh Market.) while the menu is fairly typical, they have the best guac in town --HUGE chunks, served in a molcajete.

      La Rumba, just off Kingston Pike in what used to be known as the French Market, is a Honduran restaurant. It's pretty good, and many of the menu items are familiar enough to those who like Mexican.

      Senor Taco
      3325 N Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37917

      1. re: geniuswaitress

        Thanks! As for Senor Taco, I don't mind a little "funk" if the food is good. Do they have anything that approximates to "street tacos"? (Tongue sounds close!)

        Senor Taco
        3325 N Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37917

        1. re: Jeff C.

          Never been to Senor Taco, but TN is the 1st state I've live in during the last 23 years that didn't border Mexico, so I think I'm a fair judge of Mexican food. Best I've found in the Knoxville area is SoccerTaco in the Bearden Hill area on Kingston Pike.

          The name is TERRIBLE, and it too, is housed in what used to be a Pizza Hut. We drove by it for 2 years before giving it a try. But when the other fare in W. Knoxville just didn't deliver (El Charro, Cancun, Pelancho's) we had to check it out. I would say the combination of authentic Mexican with the typical gringo fare that is a must in a southern burg like Knoxville is a good mix.

          My faves are the authentically Mexican items like the huaraches & sopes made with your choice of meat: cachete, buche, lengua, al pastor, cabeza (cheek, stomach, tongue, seasoned pork, head). It's not always available, but if you can catch them on a day whne pozole is available, it is also a favorite.

          Senor Taco
          3325 N Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37917

          605 N 12th St, Middlesboro, KY 40965

          1. re: BaseballNut

            Ended up playing safe and took her to Abeulo's, which I'm shocked to report was NOT horrible even if it is clearly Americanized Mexican. I'm grateful to all of you for the recs, however, as I plan on several visits to Knoxville this summer!

            1. re: BaseballNut

              I love their cachete tacos, especially that salsa that comes with it . They also have a store on Market Square now. I havn't been able to try anything else on the menu though since I love those tacos so much. Ask for a margarita made from scratch if you go though, the machine ones are horrid, and taste of pure sour mix.

      2. Well, I'm only 4 months late! Next time you're looking for Mexican in Knoxville, try Chez Guevara. We've been going there every Friday for about 8 years. The salsa and chile con queso are to die for. They also have unique entrees full of flavor (i.e. spinach and goat cheese quesadilla with sun dried tomatoes, meatball quesadilla, salmon, crab, etc). The atmosphere is great, too. Most of the wait staff have been there over 15 years!

        1 Reply
        1. re: stincey230

          That's the one that used to be La Paz, in Suburban Center, right?

          La Paz
          2924 Hikes Ln, Louisville, KY 40218

        2. Quite a bit late, but for future reference I would agree about Senior Taco (3325 Broadway) and Chez Guavera (8025 Kingston Pike). Senior Taco is a favorite among Mexican/Guatemalan immigrant friends. You get free all you can eat chips along with a salsa bar and they have some things on the menu not offered at your typical American Tex Mex restaurant. Che Guavera too has things not offered at your typical chain. Also good is Poncho's and El Charro. Poncho's is a chain but I think a local chain. Their is one Poncho's out Chapman Highway near John Sevier and another one in Maryville on 411 as you head out of town. They have several seafood choices and really good mole sauce. As for El Charro, it is also a chian but again a local chain. They have two restaurants both on the west side of Knoxville. The original one is on Kingston Pike near Bearden Hill. It actually used to be across the street where Soccer Taco is now, but has been around for years. It is pretty standard Tex-Mex, but very good.

          El Charro
          125 Rolling Acres Dr, Frankfort, KY 40601

          3 Replies
          1. re: Khotso98

            Thanks for the recs. Am in Knoxville several times a year and am always anxious to find goo non-chain places...Ate at at Soccer Taco on Market Square over the Thanksgiving holiday based mainly on the fact that it was recently voted Best Mexican in Knoxville. Sorry, but it wasn't very good...sloppy presentation and rather bland.

            1. re: Jeff C.

              Try El Noa Noa Mexican Market and Cafe. Excellent tacos.

              1. re: LItransplant

                That one's new to me. Where is it?

          2. It almost a year later but maybe you can take your mother out this year to a great place in Maryville - authentic/home made and very reasonably priced. I'v tried only a few things on their menu because I love them so much I just repeat myself each time.
            Los Amigos
            409 North Cusick Street
            Maryville, TN 37804
            (865) 983-6022

            2 Replies
            1. re: cecilia moore

              Interesting that Maryville is becoming an ethnic center. With a strong Japanese contingent, there are several fine sushi bars, for the folk at a few of the plants and offices nearby.

              Have not seen, nor am I familiar with Los Amigos, but will seek them out, when we're at Blackberry Farm.

              Though I would not think of this area of TN as a "hot-bed" for really good Mexican (representative of any state in Mexico), I would also not have thought that there would be two great sushi chefs there either.



              Blackberry Farm
              1471 W Millers Cove Rd, Walland, TN

              Los Amigos Restaurant
              1818 N Main St, Beaver Dam, KY 42320

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Just about a mile down the road from Los Amigos (in Maryville) is the recently opened (in Alcoa) Asian Buffet - which is superior to most buffets because they also have a Sushi Buffet amongst their other great dishes. I'm not into Sushi too much but my son is and he loves the way they make it and the fact they offer so many different sushis (diff fish and diff presentations of rice, seaweed, etc). They are very reasonably priced as well. They're between Lowes and Walmart and always quite busy which shows how good they are.
                Asian Buffet
                HOURS: Sunday - Thursday 11 AM to 10 PM; Friday & Sat. 11AM to 10:30PM
                LOCATION: 1054 Hunters Crossing; Alcoa, TN 37701
                PHONE: 865-332-7005

            2. In case you come back into town - these two were amazingly not mentioned, but are without a doubt the most authentic places in town and have great "street tacos":
              La Esperanza
              La Huasteca

              There are three locations to my knowledge and all are connected to great little Mexican markets.

              [NORTH] - 2412 Washington Pike at Whittle Springs (used to be La Esperanza, now La Huasteca)

              [SOUTH] - 2525 Chapman Hwy (used to be La Esperanza, now La Huasteca)

              [WEST] - 4329 Lonas Dr. at Hollywood - La Esperanza

              All have similar menus - check one out based on location's convenience. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

              1 Reply
              1. re: cneg

                Good to know, I owe Mom another birthday dinner!