Venue Review: Chavez Supermarket
A tasty taco built from fresh ingredients in sparkling clean surroundings and priced well under $3: What more can you ask for a quick lunch?
That's just what you'll get at the year-old Chavez Supermarket on McKee Road in the shopping center anchored by Kohl's. And the menu only begins with tacos. Burritos, quesadillas, tortas, sopes and a savory beef soup known as caldo de res also are made fresh daily at the bright and cheerful taqueria, which is separated from the market aisles by a stucco and wrought iron fence.
There are chilaquiles and huevos rancheros for breakfast and plates of tamales, enchiladas and chiles rellenos for dinner. Menudo is served on weekends.
The market is the first San Jose location of a small area chain that began in 1984 when David Chavez, who had emigrated from the Mexican state of Michoacan, opened Chavez Meat Market in Redwood City. Now there are six supermarkets, all but one of which have taquerias.
The meat market beginning shows in the quality of the meat. Most dishes come with a choice of more than a dozen meats, ranging from a nicely charred and smoky carne asada to deeply flavored pork, marinated in spices and cooked on a rotisserie in al pastor fashion. If your taste runs to the out-of-ordinary, there's also beef tongue and goat meat.
Arrive early for the lunch rush and you might see one of the cooks grilling a mountain of dried chiles for the house-made salsa rojo, which is fairly mild. The Scoville heat index rarely hits palate-searing levels in any of the dishes.
The cooks even make their own mango and chile salsa. Squeeze bottles of the fruity sauce with a little kick are kept on ice at the cash register to douse your selections.
Friendly, chatty counter workers put together your order while you wait in line. They'll adjust seasonings and ingredients to suit your taste while they steam tortillas, grill quesadillas and chop carne asada in a blur of flashing knife blades.
Burritos ($5.49) are loaded with beans, rice, cheese and fresh salsa in addition to your choice of meats. Tortas ($4.99), Mexican sandwiches, layer tomatoes, lettuce and avocado with meat on good, yeasty rolls. Plain quesadillas ($1.99) feature buttery, smoothly melting Mexican cheese but the super version ($5.99) also is packed with so much meat, guacamole, and green salsa that it essentially becomes a grilled burrito.
The best lunch deal, though, has to be the simple taco ($2.29) with enough meat and salsa to hold you until dinner.
Chavez Supermarket Taqueria
2327 McKee Road, near I-680, San Jose (408) 929-5208.
Also at 666 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Sunnyvale; 46 Fifth Ave. and
775 Arguello St., Redwood City; and 1157 W. Tennyson Ave., Hayward.
Hours: 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily
Types of food: Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and Mexican breakfast and dinner dishes
Average meal price: Under $10
Good choices: Tasty tacos al pastor, flavorful caldo de res, and pleasantly smoky carne asada super quesadilla.
Not recommended: The breaded, fried meat was cold in the torta milanesa at one lunch.
Attitude: Friendly and helpful
Vegetarian options: No-meat burritos, quesadillas and huevos rancheros
Drinks: Aguas frescas, canned sodas, fresh juices, water and beer.
Eat in car: Quesadillas, if you're careful
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Shopping center lot
Restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously. The Mercury News pays for all meals.