New bulldog on the block

Popular Oroville taqueria opens Chico location

Work of art: Bulldog’s enchilada meal.

Work of art: Bulldog’s enchilada meal.

PHOTO by melanie mactavish

Bulldog Taqueria
995 Nord Ave.
Hours: Sun.-Wed., 8 a.m.-12 a.m.;
Thurs., 8 a.m.-12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

Finding good Mexican food in Chico is not particularly difficult to do. I have my standbys, and one thing I love about them is that each place offers something just a little bit different from the others. So, while I crave enchiladas from one restaurant, I order only shrimp tacos from my favorite taco truck and it’s nachos all the way at spot No. 3.

And if satisfying my various Mexican food cravings is like getting a fix, I think I just found my new taquito dealer.

Bulldog Taqueria is the new kid in town, but it’s building on a strong foundation. The restaurant, on Nord Avenue across the street from Safeway, is bright and welcoming, its menu vast and inviting. But despite being open mere months, it’s clear the locally owned eatery has its act together. That’s because Bulldog got its start in Oroville, inside La Esmeralda Market, where it’s built a strong following of hungry customers.

For my first visit to Bulldog No. 2, I wanted to try something basic that I could compare to other experiences around town. So, I ordered the burrito bowl with chicken ($5.99) and drooled over the rest of the menu while I waited, already planning my next attack.

The burrito bowl was delicious. Generous portions of shredded chicken and rice and beans were complemented by onion, cilantro, tomato and sour cream. Altogether, the meal packed a lot of flavor and the chicken was, simply put, awesome. A super-fine shred can leave meat dry, but this was done perfectly.

In general, what excites me most about Bulldog’s menu is that so many items are offered à la carte, meaning I can try a little bit of this, a little bit of that. The meat selection is also traditional and varied, with lengua (beef tongue) and cabeza (beef head) offered alongside chicken, fish, beef and birria (goat).

For my second taste, I decided to try three à la carte tacos ($1.50, $1.75 for fish): fried fish, cabeza and birria. And, to mix it up a little, I ordered a chicken taquito as well ($2.50 à la carte). Generally, I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to trying different foods. For some reason, however, I have shied away from cabeza until now. I’m also not sure I had ever tried goat before.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the goat taco rocked. The meat was moist and tender, almost like a beef brisket, and a slight gaminess was a welcome flavor. The cabeza wasn’t my cup of tea as much, but it definitely wasn’t anything to be scared of. More tender than most beef, the head meat was also a little fattier.

But the best thing I’ve tried on the Bulldog menu thus far is the chicken taquito. Piled high with guacamole and sour cream (I opted to have my salsa on the side), the à la carte taquito was a small meal in itself. My first bite was delightful, with the perfect crunch of the tortilla offering a nice textural counterpart to the soft chicken filling and condiments on top. This taquito was so good, a craving started to develop, sending me back days later for another fix.

The taqueria also has a large and comfortable dining room, clean and sleekly designed, with high ceilings and large windows. A sort of room within a room offers sports fans a spot to catch the game on three big-screen TVs. And the service was cheerful, fast and friendly.

All in all, I was impressed by Chico’s newest Mexican restaurant. As I rotate among my favorite spots, I know where I’ll be going when my birria or taquito cravings kick in.