Conga – Pupusas And Jumping Beans

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - by Willie Mae
Conga at 207 East Main Street
Conga at 207 East Main Street

It always pleases me to find a place that I usually pass by and didn’t know it was there and to feel as though I found a wonderful treasure! At 207 East Main St. is a little place called Conga. I had never had Latin food and I thought it might be like a Tex-Mex restaurant, but it wasn’t.

I was seated by a cute girl and,  when she asked if I needed to look over the menu, I confessed that I didn’t understand what any of it was. She was so helpful to explain all of their items on the menu (old people appreciate when servers take the time to do that). Some of the younger generation will spout off ‘specials of the day’ and they talk so fast that it is just a waste of time.

This gal was proud to tell me about the different items they offered, such as Tamales, Empanadas, Barbacoa, Yucca Frita and PuPusas. A person who is not very cultured would not know what half of these items are, so it is so nice when the wait-staff is understanding and patient. My waitress (who did not look Spanish) would even say the names with a Spanish flair.

I thought I would try a Pupusas (I can spell it, but I can’t say it) which was a Salvadorian stuffed tortilla filled with cheese or garlic cheese. I ordered the combo with rice and black beans for $6.49. They come with the choice of pork, carrot, spinach, and seven more to choose from. I decided on the Sweet Basil.

Latin music was playing in the background, but it was soft and steady with quiet maracas and a Spanish guitar. With the name Conga, I expected more jive-y music and maybe the staff wearing fruit on their heads. It was pretty quiet at the time I went, but I was told that the place stays quite busy and really comes alive at noon or in the evenings and they offer outside seating.

When my meal arrived, I was surprised that the Pupusas was a round, disc-shaped breading that resembled the potato-pancakes I used to make for Jack when he was a boy. It didn’t look like it was a ‘stuffed’ anything as plain as it looked. But I took my fork and tore a little of it to see that it was, in fact, stuffed with cheese and sweet basil. It smelled wonderful! Maybe this was a Latin way to eat grilled cheese?

I loved the black beans. They were so flavorful without adding anything to them, but I usually like to add hot sauce anyway. My waitress had brought a tri-caddy of sauces and I thought I would use one for my Pupusas.

One sauce looked like a green chili sauce and one looked like a spinach-y sauce but was loaded with diced onion. The red sauce was about gone, but it had red chili pepper seeds and I thought it would be the spicy one. I smelled it before adding it and it really woke up my nostrils!

Oh boy, I was excited! I had tried a bite of the Pupusas and it was a little bland for someone who loves spice, so I loaded it with the sauce and it was perfect! I could taste the sweet basil, the cheese and still have the kick I wanted without the sauce overpowering the flavor.

As I was enjoying the quiet music along with my meal, all of a sudden I heard a loud, brassy “B-o-o-o-onk!!”

It scared me to death and I jumped like a Mexican jumping bean! The noise came from across the street where I saw a fire truck pulling out of the station. It proceeded to make noise with a high-pitched siren to accompany the baritone goose honk.

It went by as quickly as it had sounded off, so it wasn’t too disturbing. I was just glad that I didn’t spill my beans when I jumped.

I guess I was also glad to be next to a fire station because the sauce was getting hotter the more I ate it, but …as much as my nose was running - I could have put out any fire all by myself.

I didn’t know what the golden fried fruit was that was garnished on my plate. The waitress told me it was a fried plantain. When I tried a bite, it tasted like a banana. I wasn’t sure what I thought of a fried banana-tasting fruit, but I bet ol’ Elvis would love it slapped between a peanut-butter sandwich!

The rice and slaw were good, the Pupusas was wonderful and I loved the black beans. This meal most certainly deserves a Willie Mae “Whee-ee-doggie!” and, though I wasn’t fond of the fried banana-thing, I thought I would leave that for Elvis but… he must have already left the building.

Hours:

Monday – Saturday

11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Sweet Basil Pupusas with slaw, black beans, rice and fried plantain
Sweet Basil Pupusas with slaw, black beans, rice and fried plantain

Shula's 347 Grill To Open At 8th And Pine

A Shula's 347 Grill will be opening at 8th and Pine streets in the new district being developed by brothers Ken and Byron Defoor. It is part of the chain of steak emporiums developed by legendary NFL Coach Don Shula. Coach Shula was set to be in Chattanooga on Friday night for a performance by famed folk singer Arlo Guthrie to mark the opening of the district that will be ... (click for more)

Charles Siskin: A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

I was never aware of food courts until I made my first trip to London way too many decades ago. It was there I discovered the Great Food Hall at Harrod’s Department Store. Truthfully I’ve never seen anything comparable since. I have been privileged to visit lots of outdoor stalls and indoor markets in the Far East, South America, Australia, Europe and right here in this country, ... (click for more)

Boyd Questions Effectiveness Of Read 20 Program; Coppinger Defends It

County Commissioner Tim Boyd said he questions the effectiveness of the Read 20 pre-K literacy program and wants the director to come before the County Commission to answer questions.   County Mayor Jim Coppinger defended the program, noting that it was the creation of former County Mayor Claude Ramsey.   Commissioner Boyd said the low literacy level hearing ... (click for more)

Corker Says Without Budget Reform, Washington Is “Laying A Huge Burden On Future Generations”

In remarks on the Senate floor  on Wednesday , Senator Bob Corker joined a number of colleagues to discuss the broken federal budget process.   “The processes that we have in place make it impossible for us to really deal with our country’s fiscal issues,” said Senator Corker. “Today is the perfect example of that: we pass a continuing resolution ... (click for more)

Jimmy Templeton Will Be Missed At The City Yards

If only we had known about the Chattanooga City Council's planned retirement send off for Jimmy Templeton of Public Works, the room would have been filled to overflowing with his friends and admirers - including me.   I have had the honor of knowing and working with Jimmy since the 1970's (and also knew his father "Big Jim").  Jimmy was a strong right hand for whoever ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Knobfather & Me

I’ve seen some beautiful things in my life. I’ve eaten dinner inside the Eiffel Tower with the city of Paris all aglitter below. I’ve been sprayed by champagne in the Dallas Cowboys’ dressing room after they won the Super Bowl. I’ve stood both at the top and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I’ve snorkeled in the Great Exuma islands, learned to snow ski in the Austrian Alps, and ... (click for more)