It took a long time to fill that ground floor space facing 23rd Ave in the relatively new building called The Central on the SW corner of 23rd & Union. There were always rumors of a restaurant but it took until a short time ago for something to materialize and it appears to be a hit already.
Tacos Chukís has a place in South Lake Union on Dexter and another on Capitol Hill. It is very reasonable with street tacos for as little as $2.20. The most popular seems to be the Adobada taco that is marinated pork grilled with fresh pineapple; a chunk of pineapple is served on each mini-taco. One person in our party had the Adobada marinated chicken breast in a quesadilla and gave it a great review: “spicy, but not hot for me to handle!”
My selection was a Nopales taco: grilled prickly pear cactus. And no, no prickles can be found; it’s like small diced green pepper but cactus leaf instead. Very nicely seasoned. I also ordered the Frijoles quesadilla, veggie pinto beans. I usually cook with black beans and consider pinto beans to have little taste but these were well seasoned and enjoyable. One thing missing from these selections is the chopped lettuce and tomato that we are used to seeing on Mexican food, but these tortillas are so stuffed with whichever filling you have chosen that the addition of anything else would probably make it impossible to eat without a huge bib and some eating implements. As it was, I kept losing chunks of Nopales on my plate as I tried to eat the taco with some semblance of table manners.
Drinks are refrescos by Jarritos in many flavors and Mexican beer is offered; I remember seeing Tecate on the menu.
The décor is modern with both booths and a long table. The offerings are served on colorful pottery plates rather than in a flimsy boat-like cardboard. A nice touch! Each dish came with a healthy chunk of fresh lime. Orders are brought to your table and service is fast. Although there is only one order taker, there is a sizable crew in the open kitchen deftly assembling the dishes.
The prices were very reasonable: tacos $2.20, burrito $3.80 and quesadilla $4.40. They also serve something called a torta, which is nothing like the tortas in my Mexican cookbook: it is any of these fillings on a French roll. If you are sensitive about eating messy stuff in public, you might want to choose that, as it would contain the filling much better.
Ambiance? No Mexican music and seemed rather quiet despite the huge group that walked in after we easily found a booth. I do miss the ancient card tables with beer advertising on the surface and the rather wobbly metal chairs AND of course, the big bowl of fresh radishes one finds on your table as you drive the length of Baja Sur. Authentic food in a sanitized American setting. Parking is non-existent; prepare to walk.
2215 E Union St, Seattle, 98122; 206-971-1250
Sun–Sat, 11am–9pm, facebook.com/TacosChukis