It seems that new fast-casual Mexican-food chains have been about as ubiquitous in Knoxville lately as pre-meal chips and salsa are in the sit-down establishments.
However, based on the reviews I’d read about the Nashville-based Oscar’s Taco Shop, I had a feeling that Knoxville’s Cumberland strip location might be a break from the ordinary.
The Grub Spouse and I lucked out and found a parking spot right by the front door and stepped into a cozy space that’s dominated by food-prep area and offers only six inside booths. There’s also a handful of outdoor seats.
The Knoxville menu doesn’t sport as many items as some of the other Nashville-area locations, but you will find representative south-of-the-border fare such as burritos, quesadillas, nachos, breakfast burritos and their specialty, tacos.
I decided to try one of the burritos, which are made with 16-inch flour tortillas. Fillings include shredded beef, chicken and bean, but I went with the carne asada version, which also includes guacamole and pico de gallo.
The Spouse considered trying a quesadilla but went instead with the chicken nachos. They start with marinated and grilled chicken strips and add cheese, beans, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo, and pile it all onto a foundation layer of chips.
Of course, we had to try a taco, so we got a shredded beef one, which comes topped with lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese.
We only had to wait a few minutes on our order, which we picked up at the counter, served on two trays. And for good reason. Both portions were very large. Even rolled and folded, the burrito was stuffed to the max and very hefty. The nachos were presented as a heaping platter of chicken and veggie toppings.
But all of our choices also delivered where it counted — in the eating. The burrito was filled with a very generous amount of delicious, grilled, seasoned strips of steak. The guacamole and pico enhancements filled in nicely as accents.
Likewise, the grilled chicken in the nachos was seasoned to perfection and represented So-Cal Mexican cuisine well. Between the chicken and the other goodies on top, there was no shortage of places to dip a chip and scoop up something good.
The tacos were what really shined in my book. The shells are made of soft, deep-fried flatbread and again, the shredded beef filling pushed the container to its structural capacity. The veggie toppings were all fresh and cool, helping make this a truly exemplary taco specimen. If you go to Oscar’s, be sure not to miss out.
It seemed like The Spouse chipped away at that pile of nachos forever and still barely forged halfway through the platter before having to call it quits. I likewise only managed about three-quarters of the burrito plus the taco, so we had plenty of leftovers for the next day.
The best part is that you can’t beat the prices. The three items totaled only $14, so when it came to both value and superbly enjoyable Mexican grub, Oscar’s Taco Shop left me feeling anything but grouchy.
Oscar’s Taco Shop
Food: 4.5 stars (out of five)
Address: 2121 Cumberland Ave.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays
No alcohol Service
Dept. of Health Score: 93
Bottom Line: This Cumberland Avenue taco shop’s online reputation is well deserved thanks to well-prepared fare served at an affordable price.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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