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

Puckett's Chattanooga Opens Tuesday, Holds Ribbon Cutting

After nearly a year of renovation, A. Marshall Family Foods Inc.—the hospitality group that operates Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant—has announced that the Southern-inspired restaurant will open the doors to its new downtown Chattanooga location on Tuesday   at 7 a.m. To celebrate the grand opening ... (click for more)

Local Restaurants Support Tennessee Farmland Conservation

A group of 39 community-minded Nashville restaurants and 18 local Chattanooga restaurants will raise awareness and donate a percentage of the day’s sales on Wednesday, Sept. 16, to the Land Trust for Tennessee in support of its work protecting local farms and Tennessee’s natural landscapes.   This year, the third annual Eat Green for Tennessee event gained momentum with ... (click for more)

Trustee To Be Appointed To Oversee Hutcheson Medical Center Bankruptcy With Focus On Sale Of Fort Oglethorpe Hospital

A trustee will be appointed to oversee the bankruptcy case of Hutcheson Medical Center with a focus on getting the financially-strapped Fort Oglethorpe hospital sold. The U.S. Trustee's Office had filed a motion asking that the bankruptcy be dissolved due to the debt rising to $6.3 million since the bankruptcy was filed last November. However, all parties finally agreed it was ... (click for more)

Civic, Political Leader Mai Bell Hurley Dies At 87

Civic and political leader Mai Bell Hurley has died at age 87. She was the first woman to serve on the Chattanooga City Council. Ms. Hurley was also a longtime advocate for the arts and a leader in United Way. She was a leader in Chattanooga Venture that led to the redevelopment of downtown and the riverfront.  She most recently served on the Library Board. ... (click for more)

Who's Responsible For East Ridge's Stadium? - And Response (2)

There just can be no excuse for East Ridge High School's stadium being in such dangerous condition that it has been condemned.   Where is responsible for this? I know there are a few other stadiums like this as well. And there is no excuse for this.  Building new and beautiful schools, state of the art technology. Top athletic facilities as well. Yet, East Ridge ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Every Child Must Watch This

In the course of my day, I read different websites, am sent all kinds of neat videos and I love the jokes I get. But when I logged onto my ever-bulging email account Thursday morning, I happened across the scariest, most terrifying video I have ever watched. There is a website I check called “Atchuup” that boasts “cool stories daily.” Some are pretty good but this one nearly knocked ... (click for more)