Food & Drink

Quick Bites

The Triangle is richly blessed with authentic taquerias, but many otherwise adventurous foodies have never set foot inside one. And by "otherwise adventurous foodies," I mean people who don't speak Spanish and are afraid they'll order something like beef tongue or tripe tacos by mistake. They're missing out on some fine eating.

But they needn't miss out any longer. At Chubby's Tacos, you order at a counter, just as you would at a traditional taqueria. But the menu is in English, and the person who takes your order speaks English. In addition to tacos (served on house-made soft corn tortillas unless you specify flour or hard corn tortilla), the offering includes tortas, quesadillas, gorditas and thick-as-your-forearm burritos. A varied assortment of fillings is available, from traditional carne asada and al pastor to less orthodox creations such as chile relleno and ahi tuna. There's even a tofu taco. But nary a shred of tongue or tripe to be seen.

True to taqueria tradition, a condiment station is stocked with jalapeños, lime wedges and an assortment of scratch-made salsas. But the carnitas filling was so juicy and flavorful on the gordita I ordered recently that I happily devoured it just as it came, with shredded lettuce, crumbled Mexican queso and a dollop of sour cream.

And my citrus-marinated grilled tilapia taco certainly didn't need anything more than the chipotle cream sauce and pico de gallo that it came with.

Tony Sustaita, who owns the local Bandido's chain of Mexican restaurants, teamed up with longtime customer and friend Jody Lytton to open the first Chubby's Tacos last May in Durham. The partners patterned the restaurant after the "north of the border-friendly taquerias" that they fondly recall from former days in San Antonio. Chubby's evokes pleasant memories of Southern California for me, and I dare say it will be familiar to many who have moved here from the Southwest, where this sort of eatery has long been popular.

Looks as if this little corner of the Southeast is more than ready for English-speaking taquerias, too. Less than a year after the first Chubby's Tacos opened in Durham, a second location is already packing them in in Raleigh.