After all of the delicious ethnic foods at Culture Fest, I was excited to head to Conga to get some much-needed Latin food. I have a favorite Latin restaurant in D.C., but have craved it while being in Chattanooga, sometimes to the point of making homemade pupusas in my dorm kitchen. Located on Main Street, Conga satisfies that craving and packs in the flavor. The atmosphere of this small eatery is set with simple décor, lively Latin music, and a Frida Kahlo painting staring at you while you eat.
The meal begins with fresh plantain chips with a unique sauce duo. There is a tangy mango and jalapeño sauce that is heavy on the heat paired with a simple parsley and onion relish. Those bold flavors on top of the sweet plantain chips is an automatic winner — and that’s just the complementary chips! Flavors go up a level if you add in a side of guacamole (yes, like Chipotle, it’s extra) which feature hearty slices of perfectly ripe avocado. Talk about addictive.
If you are unsure about what to order, the staff are friendly and eager to suggest some of their favorites. My go-to at any Latin restaurant are the pupusas. I consider myself a pupusa connoisseur at this point. The Pork and Cheese Pupusas at Conga are up there with some of the best. At just $5 for two, this grilled mesa patty is stuffed with flavorful pork carnitas and a generous amount of cheese. They are served steaming hot with a side of simple cabbage and carrot slaw to add a necessary crunch and brightness to the whole dish. I add some of that spicy mango sauce on top, and then I have all that I need in life. The plates of beans and rice come unadorned, but are delicious when paired with a soft, sweet roasted plantain that melts in your mouth. Finishing off the meal with dessert, I go for the Guayaba and Cheese Empanada. The perfectly fried, golden brown dough is filled with guayaba jam and balanced by a bit of cheese to create a perfect sticky, fruit-filled, semi-sweet end to the meal.
With fresh, warm, comforting flavors, Conga is quickly becoming one of my go-to spots in Chattanooga for something a little different. Liberal portions only fifteen minutes away with quick service and food within a college price range, it is a perfect place to go with friends on rainy February afternoons. What’s more, becoming acquainted with Latin food is a great way to gain inspiration for new flavors to try out at home. Conga Latin Restaurant is a great addition to the Chattanooga food scene because it is one of the few establishments offering these unique flavors at a perfect price. So don’t wait another year for the next Culture Fest to fix your Latin food craving — just head to Conga this weekend and load up on some pupusas!