February 21, 2011
Monday postscript: huge lines at Chando's Tacos

By Blair Anthony Robertson

On Sunday, I wrote a very favorable review of a modest little taco joint. I talked about the wonderful flavors of the meats, the commitment of the owner and his employees, and the excitement of having such a stellar place to enjoy the best of Tijuana street food right here in Sacramento.

So how did Chando's Tacos do on Sunday? I called Chando - Lisidro Madrigal - after closing time to ask. I already had a pretty good clue. At about 2 p.m., he called me while I was out on a bike ride. Chando explained they were slammed with customers from the moment they opened and that he was on his way to the store to get more supplies.

By the time I called him at 8:30 p.m., Chando and his employees were bleary-eyed, dead tired and more than a little overwhelmed.

The line was around the corner for most of the day, with waits of about an hour just to order and another 15 minutes before customers were chowing down on some pretty incredible tacos, burritos, and tortas.

"It was amazing. I'm speechless. We ran out of stuff," he said with a laugh. "We ran out of everything at about 6:45 and I had to go out and start sending people home."

Those turned away received coupons for two free tacos.

This kind of experience is exciting and daunting for a small restaurant owner. Yes, Chando's Tacos had developed a solid cult following in the months since it opened last summer. But this was different. This was readers from all over descending on the restaurant all at once.

"It taught us a lot. Because it was consistently busy the whole time, we had to make sure we were communicating and make sure we kept smiling," Chando said.

I'm sure a lot of you reading this either work at a restaurant or worked in restaurants at some point. When I was a cook, I remember the classic rush. Before it happened, we'd stand around and chat, do some prep, tend to a few things, but mostly we would wait. Then a few people trickled in. A few more. Then lots all at once. We'd be slammed. It was fun and frantic. It's very intense and you stay focused. The time flies. Then, before you know it, it's dead again.

But Chando's experienced that kind of rush all day without any room for breathers. I can only imagine the pressure to see a line forming all the way down the sidewalk and around the corner.

"When we opened our doors, we waited on one customer, and then after that it was packed all day," Chando added. "I'm very proud of my team. They did a great job."

Congratulations to Chando and his crew for rising to the challenge. And thank you to The Bee readers who responded to the review in such an enthusiastic way.

Part of what makes a city a great food town is having local joints that do something with style and a commitment to excellence. They deserve to be famous. Sure, we need more of those places, but Sactown has plenty - and Chando's is one of them. And we need a variety - dive bars, dive eateries, and great full-service special occasion restaurants.

If you couldn't get out to Chando's Tacos on Sunday, check them out during the week for lunch or dinner. I try to sneak out there sometime in-between.

What's my favorite so far? When I had lunch recently with Jeffrey Callison, a very enthusiastic foodie and host of "Insight" on Capital Public Radio, he couldn't stop raving about his fish burrito. Indeed, I'm a big fan of the fish torta. But I guess my favorite thing to do is order the three-taco combo, get a different meat in each and savor the greatness of this place. But that burrito is pretty darn good, too. Same with the quesadilla!

I'm making myself hungry. I think I'll head out there today for a late lunch. Or an early lunch.

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