Taco Mamacita, Vegetarian-Style-December 23, 2011

Over the last couple of months, Philip and I have cut way down on our meat consumption in an attempt to be a little more healthy and save a few bucks as well. It’s funny, it started as a “let’s see how this goes a couple of days a week” sort of thing, which morphed into a “let’s try it every other day” sort of thing, then eventually my inner over-achiever took over and lately we haven’t been eating much meat during the week at all. Now, we are far from observing a vegan diet during the week, as we still eat lots of milk, cheese, eggs, and butter….but we really don’t miss the meat, which has been quite surprising to both of us.

We visited Taco Mamacita on “Christmas Eve Eve” with some friends who were visiting from out of town-in town for 16 hours before heading out of state to see family for Christmas. Philip had already mentioned ordering some of the vegetarian items off the menu, and I was perusing the menu trying to decide if I was going to go for strictly vegetarian options or if I was going to have something with shrimp or fish (interestingly, eating too much meat seems to take its toll on my digestion now, so since I knew I’d be eating pork and prime rib for Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively, I had already decided to forego pork, beef, or even chicken on this jaunt). One of our friends, however, is a vegan, and when she asked our server about vegan options, the server produced a vegan menu. I had no idea any such thing existed!

There is a handful of vegan appetizers on the menu, one being chips and the choice of one of their three salsas and another being the salsa sampler, which is, of course, chips and all three salsas (mango-chunky; roasted tomato-red, slightly spicy; tomatillo-green, a little tart).  As you can see, we ordered the salsa sampler.  We also ordered the chips and queso, but I’ve already shown you a picture of that, so no reason to take another one!  Anyway, the chips are hot, fresh, and yummy, and I liked all of the salsas, but I have to say that the tomatillo is my favorite.  I just really love tomatillo salsa (AKA salsa verde, or “green salsa”).

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Salsa Sampler: clockwise from left-roasted tomato salsa, mango salsa, tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)

I decided to go for an avocado taco, because I have been completely obsessed with all things avocado of late, and a “Freakin’ Vegan.”  The avocado taco included, naturally, slices of avocado, lettuce, pico de gallo, and escabeche.  The Freakin’ Vegan had rice with spinach, petite red beans, lettuce, pico, guacamole, and escabeche.  I tried to find a good description of escabeche online, but everything I found kept saying that escabeche was a method of preparing fish using a pickling liquid (similar to ceviche, I presume).  This led me to assume that the escabeche on my taco was the large shreds of onion on top that were kind of limp, as if they had been soaking in some sort of liquid-perhaps the pickling liquid????  Anyway, I guess I should have asked.  But I didn’t.  I did, however, remove said large strips of onion from my tacos.  You know I’m not a fan!  I also asked for my tacos to be served on corn tortillas instead of the standard flour tortillas.  I was glad that I did!  Not that there’s anything wrong with their flour tortillas-they’re quite good-I just prefer corn.  Much prefer.  Anyway…..I was surprised to find that I actually preferred the Freakin’ Vegan to the avocado taco.  The avocado taco was good, it just seemed a little messier and more difficult to eat than the Freakin’ Vegan, and the beans gave the Freakin’ Vegan a little more substance.  Both tasted great, though!  I also got the vegan option of the black bean and corn salad, which was absolutely delicious, with a white balsamic vinaigrette.  I ate every bite of it and considered drinking the liquid out of the bowl.  I definitely recommend this as a side.  I liked it best of any of the sides I have tried here.

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Freakin' Vegan on the left, Avocado on the right, black bean and corn salad in the middle!

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An upclose and personal view of the Freakin' Vegan

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And the inside of the avocado taco

Philip didn’t go quite as far as I did; he had a vegetarian meal but not a vegan meal.  He chose the black bean taco, which I had on the trip I wrote my first Taco Mama blog about, which has a black bean cake, monterey jack cheese, crema, lettuce, pico de gallo, and escabeche (there it is again!) and a vegetarian jerk taco, which included sauteed plantains, shredded cabbage, refried black beans, mango salsa, peach aioli, and spicy Caribbean jerk sauce.  For his side, he decided on chipotle turnip greens.  I was honestly surprised that Philip ordered the plantain taco, because plantains are similar in texture to bananas, which Philip hates (for the texture!), but he really liked the plantain taco.  He was also extremely happy with the black bean taco, and he loved the chipotle turnip greens, which I actually tasted.  They were very smoky and seasoned just right.  I am not a huge fan of turnip greens-in fact, I despise the smell of them-but these were good!  By the way, I didn’t take a picture of the inside of his black bean taco; you can go to my original post if you’d like to see one.

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This is what the inside of the vegetarian jerk looks like!

I was definitely pleasantly surprised by how fantastic the vegan and vegetarian items at this great restaurant were.  That’s one of the truly great things about some of the up and coming local restaurants: they are really working to keep all of their clientele and potential clientele happy and provide options that meet everyone’s dietary preferences and needs.  Support local business!  Eat at Taco Mama!

Taco Mamacita is located at 109 North Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405 (the old Durty Nelly’s location).  They can be reached at 423-648-6262.  Check out their website or Facebook page.

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