Did you know that El Salvador is one of the few remaining countries in Central America where you can find monkeys in the wild?
I sure didn't know that. Still, I was intrigued by the monkey mascot that adorned the signs and menu at Taqueria Chango, a new restaurant opening up at 507 Fifth St.
Specializing in both Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine, this eatery had been on my radar for weeks. That was due to Taqueria Chango's hard-to-miss jungle signage.
Once I realized the restaurant was ready for business, I knew I had to give it a try.
But first, here's a little geography lesson.
Bordered by Honduras on the northeast, Guatemala on the northwest and the Pacific Ocean on the south, the Republic of El Salvador -- literally "Republic of the Savior" -- is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.
Influenced by Native American cuisine as well as indigenous cultures and European Spaniards, many Salvadoran eats are made with corn.
This is certainly true for the pupusa, which is El Salvador's most famous food.
Made with a thick, corn flour tortilla, pupusas also make up a large portion of Taqueria Chango's menu.
Looking like a pancake that's been stuffed with a lot of goodies, you can get an asada and queso (steak and cheese), pollo and queso (chicken and cheese) or chicacharron and queso (pork and cheese). Vegetarians may choose the calabaza and queso (squash and cheese) or the queso and loroco (cheese and a leafy, edible flower) pupusa.
GETTING THE VAPORS FOR TACOS AL VAPOR
Taqueria Chango newcomers may notice that the eatery is one of the few Sioux City places that make steamed tacos.
What's a steamed taco, you ask? It is a pre-steamed tortilla shell that comes with a filling (refried beans or a sauce) which acts as glue to whatever ingredients are added to the taco.
Taste-wise, a steamed taco doesn't differ from a non-steamed taco. The moist and pliable shell just makes it a handier vessel for clumsy diners (like the Weekender staff).
COLOSSAL QUESADILLAS AND TERRIFIC TORTAS
Also prominent at Taqueria Chango menu board is the quesadilla (a grilled tortilla with meat stuffed inside). Served in triangular slices, a quesadilla is the equivalent of a shareable sandwich.
Much harder to share is the torta. Like the quesadilla, the torta is a grilled sandwich served with meat and veggies. However, the torta is made with a crusty, football-shape bread roll called a bilillo.
Even though he liked the flavor of Taqueria Chango's torta, the Weekender's Ari Lebowitz didn't like the bread.
Similar to the taco shells, the restaurant steams its bilillo. Instead of making the bread fluffy, the steam caused it to tear up under multiple ingredients.
That's a shame because the carne asada we ordered was nicely seasoned. It would've been perfect on crustier bread.
MEET YO' MEAT
Before we proceed any further, let's talk about Taqueria Chango's meat selection.
We think most people know asada means steak, pollo means chicken and pescado means fish. We're also sure that many of you also know birria is marinated beef while adobada is marinated pork.
OK, now we're gonna gross you out!
All of the above meats can be added to Taqueria Chango's quesadillas, tortas, tacos and nachos. So can cabeza (a cow's head), cachete (a cow's cheek), labio (a cow's lip), and lengua (a cow's tongue).
While we'll be sticking with good ol' steak, we know there are many more adventurous readers.
WE'LL DRINK TO THAT
While Taqueria Chango has Jarritos, Sangria and Mexican Coca-Cola (with pure cane sugar) in soda pop bottles, we prefer a nice aquas frescas instead.
The restaurant's horchata (made with rice and cinnamon), tamarindo (made with an orange-colored legume) and the jamaica (made with deep-red hibiscus) are the perfect beverages to wash down such spicy foods.
However, everything is tasty at Taqueria Chango. While its signature monkey may be kitschy, the food is totally legit.