Bethany Clough

Eating Out: El TacoLicious serves fast, authentic Mexican food

If there's one thing Fresno does well, it's Mexican food.

So let's focus on some delicious Mexican food news this week with a look at an interesting new restaurant near the zoo, a popular salsa that's landed on Whole Foods shelves and a visit with Fresno favorite Chris Meat Market at its new location.

El TacoLicious

El TacoLicious, a restaurant that opened in January, is easy to spot when driving down Belmont Avenue with its big new sign.

The restaurant at 555 W. Belmont Ave. is next door to Aldo's Nightclub. El TacoLicious is fast-food Mexican, with a mix of authentic family recipes and newfangled dishes inspired by surfers and a college-age daughter.

The restaurant is owned by the same man who owns Aldo's.

The first thing you notice at the restaurant is the happy decor — lime green walls, clouds on the ceiling and stools that look like giant beer bottle caps, complete with Modelo and Pacifico beer logos.

The menu is simple. Pick your dish, pick your meat, pick your drink and you're done. Options include tacos, burritos, tortas — a Mexican-style sandwich — and other favorites.

There are nine meat options and nothing on the menu costs more than $6.25.

The basic carne asada taco is the most popular, said owner Eddie Quintana.

"We're fast food, but we're authentic," he says. "My mom makes the best gorditas so I had to learn how to make it."

At El TacoLicious, the gorditas are pockets of thin, spongy dough made by hand, briefly fried and then filled with meat, beans, lettuce and pico de gallo.

You'll also find a Cali burrito, which Quintana says was inspired by hungry San Diego surfers who needed more than a regular burrito to fill them up. So they put french fries inside.

And Quintana's daughter, a UC Merced student, told her dad he needed asada fries on the menu. Those are like nachos, Quintana says, but with fries instead of chips, and topped with meat, jalapeños, guacamole and "lots and lots of cheese."

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and stays open until 3 a.m. to catch the late night-early morning crowd on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings.

Details: www.eltacolicious.com or (559) 412-7849.

Burrito King salsa

Burrito King, a longtime Madera restaurant and bar, is selling its salsa at Whole Foods in Fresno.

It soon will be on the shelves of Whole Foods in Sonoma and Santa Rosa, too.

The family-owned, 36-year-old restaurant is at 319 N. Gateway Drive in Madera.

"We make it there at the restaurant every day," says Erica Castro, whose parents own Burrito King.

She and her sister Maira and brother Cesar have made selling the salsa their personal pet project. The deli section at the Madera Ranchos Market has been selling it for more than two years.

The salsa is fresh and organic and has a following that had customers buying containers of it at the restaurant.

"You open it up and you don't just stop eating, you'll eat the whole container," she says. "It's not overpowering. It's not extremely spicy."

Chris Meat Market

Chris Meat Market Taqueria is settling in to its new location. They have so many fans, I figured it was time to touch base.

The taqueria moved in February to 2108 N. Blackstone Ave., just north of Ratcliffe Stadium, after leaving its longtime Kern Street location and a brief stint on Tulare Avenue.

The new location has all the charm of the previous ones, complete with handwritten signs, but it no longer has the meat market. The cost of the meat went up so much it was difficult to keep the same quality, manager Alvaro Meneses says.

The menu has stayed the same, with a few additions. The tacos continue to be the most popular, along with burritos and hamburgers. But moving to a different part of town brought some customers looking for something different.

So nachos — with meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, onions and sour cream — have been added to the menu.

Since the place is so close to Fresno City College, students get a discount: If you spend at least $5 you get $1 off, or you can get a free soda.

Chris Meat Market is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Details: (559) 233-8134 or search for the Chris Meat Market page on Facebook.

Denny's

In other news, Denny's is raising money to end childhood hunger with its participation in the "No Kid Hungry" fundraiser. Last year, Denny's raised nearly $800,000 and the company hopes to top $1 million this year.

Customers can donate one of four ways now through Sept. 30.

Diners who donate $3 in the restaurant will get $9 worth of Denny's coupons.

Donate online at www.dennysnokidhungry.com and get a coupon worth $5 off your next Denny's meal.

Text the word "dennys" to 877877 to get information about how to donate and to get $5 off your next Denny's meal.

Buy a $10 T-shirt designed by a Denny's employee at www.dennysnokidhungry.com. The proceeds go to the No Kid Hungry campaign.

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