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

Alpha Beta ESA Plans 27th Annual Taster’s Luncheon

Alpha Beta ESA’s 27th annual Taster’s Luncheon to benefit the Walter E. Boehm Birth Defect Center takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20, at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 7111 Lee Highway. Organizers said, "This event not only provides delicious hors d’oeuvres, salads and desserts, but includes a fabulous fashion show with clothing by CATO, a $100 cash drawing, a Chinese auction ... (click for more)

The Egg & I Restaurant Opening In Chattanooga On Sept. 1

The Egg & I Restaurants announced the opening of its 105 th  restaurant on Monday, Sept. 1. The restaurant opens at 6 a.m., and is at 1825 Gunbarrel Road, a half mile Southwest of Hamilton Place Mall. On Sunday, the restaurant will donate 100% of all proceeds from its private, pre-opening training day to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.The food bank’s mission is to lead ... (click for more)

Greg Beck Asking County Commission Chairmanship; Others Seeking Post Behind The Scenes

Long time County Commissioner Greg Beck is seeking the chairmanship of the Hamilton County Commission, he said. Several other commissioners are working behind the scenes to try to get the top commission post. The job opened up after the unexpected defeat of Commission Chairman Fred Skillern in the August primary election. Larry Henry, who has held the chairmanship several ... (click for more)

1 Dies, 4 Injured In 2-Vehicle Crash At Soddy Daisy

One person has died in a wreck Sunday at Soddy Daisy in which four other people were injured. The wreck happened at 12:35 p.m. when a vehicle traveling north struck another vehicle that was pulling onto the highway. A small red truck was badly damaged in the crash. It happened at 12130 Dayton Pike near Tavern Sports Bar and Grille. One person was airlifted, while the ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)