Impromptu dates are my favourite, especially the kind that involve a first time food experience that leaves a lasting impression. The last time we enjoyed one of these was a couple of months ago when we indulged in the most delectable Belgian waffles I’ve had to date, so you can imagine my excitement when we came across CHIAPAS at The Zone in Rosebank.

The eatery’s “eat Mexican” tag line was enough to allude to us what to expect, given that the name CHIAPAS isn’t exactly common. The secret the tag line neglected to reveal, however, was the fact that we were about to treat ourselves to what I can easily say is one of the best plates of healthy Mexican food in Johannesburg! So much so that half way through my burrito, I wondered if it was too late in life for me to give myself a Mexican name… Call me Alejandra.

The restaurant itself is unlike what the name suggests, which translates to “a state in Southern Mexico: mountainous and forested”. The ambience at CHIAPAS is far more relaxed, embracing a leather and wood backdrop, brilliant lighting and pleasing background music, making it the perfect spot for a quick “wind down” type of meal on a Friday night. Essentially, it’s an easy going fast food joint with a little bit more luxury, which is a refreshing contrast to the traditional sombreros and margaritas one would traditionally expect.

As you walk in, you are met with a cafeteria style counter where you are able to (with the assistance of the efficient staff) build your meal from the mouthwatering variations of tortilla fillings. I opted for a burrito, which I filled with pulled beef, salsa, corn, peppers, guacamole, cream cheese, chilli and a giant portion of excitement. The lady serving us was kind enough to caution us against the chilli being super spicy- hence their offering of a milder option, which I opted for without hesitation. Usually when I enjoy a meal of this nature for the first time, I prefer to keep it simple- the simplest ingredients to allow me to enjoy the experience and not overpower my taste buds. I have to admit, though, it was difficult to fight temptation as the menu options, though concise, were all so appealing.  My partner in crime was far more adventurous than I am and went with the hot version of the chilli on his crispy tacos, which he also adorned with the amazing fillings, topped with a generous serving of cheese.

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When I finally came up for air from my delicious taste experience, I noticed how the tables surrounding me had quickly been occupied by people young and old, reserved and flamboyant, casual and formal, health enthusiasts and foodies and in the corners of the restaurant- some lovers and friends, all enjoying a memorable Friday night at what seems to me like the perfect Mexican mini food emporium. My only tip if you fall under the “lovers and friends” category and are self-conscious about making a good food etiquette impression (but still want to enjoy the pleasure of digging into a meal at CHIAPAS) would be to stick to a burrito bowl which you can enjoy using a plastic fork and knife. Apart from that, BUEN APETITO, Amigo!


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