Think outside the bell
New Mexican restaurant takes over familiar downtown spot
Adanberto’s450 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928
Chico, CA 95926
Who would have thought that the Taco Bell on the corner of Fifth and Main streets, which provided fuel for downtown Chico’s thriving late-night crowds for more than 20 years, would go belly up? The giant in fast Mexican-ish food fell like a monolith, and from its dust has emerged the real thing: Adanberto’s Mexican Food moved into the hot spot on July 1, and brought with it some significant changes.
You’ll recognize the familiar booths from the Taco Bell days still intact, but now the walls are painted with relaxing earth tones and tasteful decorations have replaced garish Taco Bell posters. But what has changed most significantly is the food.
The menu above the counter inside Adanberto’s has no 79/89/99 cent “values.” Instead it features 20 full-color pictures of combo plates—most are two items served with rice, beans and sour cream: two beef tacos, burritos or enchiladas ($8.49), two chili rellenos ($8.75), chorizo or machaca ($8.49), and the shrimp fajita ($8.99).
Adanberto’s uses large corn tortillas, making for large tacos. They come crispy or soft, double-shelled, and are prepared with cheese and salsa covering your choice of meat. Beef is served shredded (as is the chicken) or diced, and the pork dishes—carnitas and adobada—are chopped into small chunks. I had several dishes (burritos, tacos and quesadillas) featuring a range of the meats, and all were tender and savory.
Already familiar with their burritos and tacos, I decided on a recent trip to try out the shrimp plate and was very pleased. The shrimp, about eight large ones, were served plump, juicy and pink. The thick red sauce was hearty and flavorful (and reminded me of enchilada sauce) with large slices of bell pepper and onion.
Adanberto’s best deals, though, are on the specials menu: $3.85 buys a chicken burrito, packed with meat and beans with sides of rice and cheese and small drink included; $6.85 gets you the Super Nachos—a massive pile of chips, topped generously with two kinds of cheese, meat, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and guacamole, and is enough for two or three people.
The restaurant also offers a self-serve salsa bar, providing free additions to your meal, such as peeled cucumbers, onions, jalapeños, carrots and radishes, as well as sauces and salsa. But one the best features is the self-serve chip box. The crispy, thin, fresh and warm chips are made on-site, and added to the giant portions of their meals, help to ensure that you will not leave Adanberto’s hungry.
Adanberto’s also has an East Avenue location (also inside the shell of a former Taco Bell), with a convenient, 24-hour drive-through. I’ve had more than a couple 3 a.m. meals from there, including their adobada burritos, featuring spicy marinated pork chopped into little chunks and packed into a tortilla bulging with flavor ($6.85), and chicken taquitos ($3 for three; $3.99 for four) topped with sour cream and a generous portion of guacamole made thick with fresh avocado and tomato.
I tried the walk-up window at the new restaurant one late Chico evening, ordering the carne asada quesadilla with sides of sour cream and guacamole ($5.25). The quesadilla is made from a giant flour tortilla, full of steak and melted cheese. Even folded up, this quesadilla is big and tasted great heated up the next day.
Adanberto’s is a family-run business with restaurants up and down California, including ones in Marysville, Folsom and as far south as San Diego. As a chain, it is as charmingly authentic-looking as other local Mexican establishments, and is a huge improvement over the national chain it replaced.
The downtown location will begin 24-hour service via its walk-up window as soon as students return from summer break. Until then, the restaurant will be staying open until 3 a.m. to help with those late-night munchies.