This roadside eatery is a lot more than what meets the eye. I found Pico Taqueria in the early research phase of this trip. It was this adorable little taco stand right off of Maddox Blvd, in Chincoteague, VA. They had an eye-catching rooster logo that we just loved, but their motto is what really sold me: you can put anything on a taco. I've never related to anything as much as this. So here we are, two years later in our little school bus, driving down to Virginia to get my taco fix. Between finding it online & us actually getting to it, Pico Taqueria had moved to a new location down the road. Despite having expanded, they managed to keep that 'small feel' that myself, and I'm sure other diners love. I mean, it's pretty obvious people love it, there was a line out the door! Pico had to be doing something right, and we were eager to try it out for ourselves.
As we were driving down Maddox Blvd, we kept our eyes peeled to make sure we wouldn't miss it. Pico Taqueria is a smaller restaurant right on the main shopping strip in Chincoteague. With all the hotels, souvenir shops, and other tourist traps out there, we could have easily driven right by it. Luckily with TACOS spelled out on the roof in big marquee letters, we found it just fine. They have a decent-sized parking lot (which was great for us, parking a short school bus isn't always easy..) Walking up you'll see their outdoor seating options. There's the porch right out in front with three large picnic tables and a couple of brightly colored Adirondack chairs. Over on the right, apart from the main building, there's a screened-in patio with several tables of four inside. For kids—or if you’re just feeling a bit playful yourself—Pico Taqueria even has a sandpit area with cornhole & little toys for the kiddos—so you can enjoy your delicious tacos in peace. Inside they have about eight 4-tops in a quaint little dining room, which is also where you'll pick up your food.
Right off the bat, there was a long line going out the door (it also was 6:30 on a Saturday night...prime taco time). Personally I love counter service. It gives you time to figure out what you want to order, and I love the feeling when you know your next. I get so giddy with anticipation. I actually saw on Facebook that day that Pico Taqueria had whipped up some apple salsa with golden delicious & fuji apples from B-Dats Farm in Bloxom, Virginia, I needed that! As we got in line and started reading the menu boards, I saw today's special: loaded sweet potato WAFFLE FRIES with the apple salsa, chipotle crema, cilantro, and pulled pork. Did I mention the waffle fries? Because it was served with waffle fries, sweet potato waffle fries. Light & crispy, with fresh fruit & herbs, and tender melt-in-your-mouth pork, need I say more? Me & Chris absolutely devoured them.
As for the tacos, Pico Taqueria offers several untraditional varieties. Their menu is al la carte, so you can mix and match your desired delight. They even have sides like rice & beans, guacamole, chips & salsa, so you can make a meal out of it. Want tortillas made in house? No problem, Pico Taqueria makes both corn & flour tortillas in-house. If you're looking for something a little more substantial they also have a. taco bowl option, where you can take any one of their tacos, and get it in a bowl with rice & beans (about 3 tacos worth). We decided to try out this venture with their 'chicken city' taco. Blackened chicken, white corn & black bean salsa with avocado crema and cotija cheese, pure perfection. We then decided to check out "The Maddox" taco- cornmeal fried local oysters, with pickled carrots, daikon radish, and tartar sauce with Thai basil. This one was my absolute favorite. The spiciness of the daikon radish paired so nicely with the acidic bite of the pickled carrots, and the light crispiness of the fried oyster—oh man, I could honestly eat four more of these. Next up The Main Street taco, seasoned & seared shrimp, green cabbage slaw, guacamole, queso fresco, and chipotle creme fraiche. The shrimp had just the right amount of spice to it, and with all bright & fresh ingredients, it was like summer in a tortilla! One thing I can say, that these tacos were light, flavorful—plus it didn't make me feel like I just gained 30lbs after eating one. All we wanted to do was to get another round of tacos, but at this point, the line was growing and growing, so we decided to let this be a fond memory when our plates emptied.
The food was the shining star, but Pico Taqueria took that same care & dedication to quality in its dishes, as they did when making the drink menu. They offered beer in cans (domestic & local craft), frozen margaritas (made from scratch and served from a slushie machine), Jarrito Mexican sodas, freshly brewed ice tea, Mexican coke, locally made orange soda & rootbeer, and the most delicious house-made limeade (that day's special). That limeade was ridiculously refreshing on a hot day. It was the perfect choice to wash down my expertly orchestrated tacos. We also tried one of the local beers (of course) from Tradition Brewing Co., Aloha Berliner Weisse. Bright & tangy, with big pineapple flavors and subtle peppery notes, very juicy and effervescent (kinda like kombucha) with a nice mellow & wheaty finish. This beer was made for the beach. Let me tell ya, Pico Taqueria impressed us with the food, atmosphere, service (everyone was super friendly), drinks, and even their clientele.
You can tell a lot about a place by the regulars that keep coming back for more. When I was bartending, the regulars at my bar, made me want to come to work every day. They were like good friends that supported you and more importantly supported the restaurant. Pico Taqueria has the star example of dedicated regulars. Just about everyone we talked to there, couldn't stop praising the tacos even if they tried! These are the people that live in the area and have been to the other taco stands (which there are a fair amount of). But time & time again, they ultimately end up disappointed and find they're way back to Pico Taqueria, where it's always good. Understanding the market is key to running a successful restaurant, and what do people really want? Simple, local & delicious ingredients that you don't need to sit at a white-clothed table for.
Pico Taqueria is really a wonderful place. The tacos are exciting, delicious, sourced locally, and made with love. Over the past five years, their dedication to quality and customer service has allowed them to thrive & expand. But they know where they came from, and what got them to where they are today, and never let success get to their heads. With a dedicated base of taco enthusiasts pushing them forward, Pico's rooster is sure to be a landmark of Chincoteague Island. Next time you find yourself in Virginia, head on down Maddox Blvd, and treat yourself to the most innovative and scrumptious tacos you'll ever have. Even if you live states away, you'll become a dedicated regular that can't shut up about these tacos, we know we have!
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