Salsa bar at Cocula Mexican Grill only part of restaurant’s attraction

12:32 pm | April 19, 2013

I enjoyed a fun meal with a gathering of friends on a recent Friday evening at Cocula Mexican Grill in Johnson City.

The restaurant opened in Johnson City in the summer of 2010, but this regional chain also has restaurants in the North Carolina cities of Asheville, Columbus and Hendersonville. In addition to Johnson City, there’s also a location on Stone Drive in Kingsport.

Upon arriving, we were seated at a table and the server delivered two baskets of chips and small bowls containing a tasty bean dip.

Cocula also offers a salsa bar featuring about a dozen or so dips and condiments, including Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and several salsas, including Spicy Green, Tomatillo Hot, Mild and Regular.

My dining companion and I definitely enjoyed this complementary addition to the meal. We each got a small dish of some of these condiments to enjoy with our chips.

I enjoyed the pico de gallo, which was enhanced with diced mango, but I also liked the Tomatillo Hot Sauce. As advertised, this one definitely delivered some powerful heat.

The dining area features sponge-painted orange walls, faux brickwork, white arches and a southwestern border trim depicting cacti and other desert plants. Seating is available at tables or in semi-enclosed booths made of rough-hewn wood. Decorative touches include cart wheels displayed on the walls as well as framed paintings of Mexican scenes. Light tile floors and bamboo window screens also add to the decor. A few miniature potted palms provided a splash of greenery. Some flat screen televisions are available for viewing in different sections of the dining area.

By the time we finished the complementary chips, salsa and bean dip, we were ready to look over the menu. Cocula’s menu offers sections for fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, quesadillas, tacos and tortas, or sandwiches. The offerings include chicken, beef, pork, seafood and vegetarian options, as well as a range of combination platters, lunch specials and a children’s menu.

Among the items I considered were Fajitas Jalisco, Mole de Puerco, Carne Asada, Fish Tacos and the Torta Cubana, which is a sandwich made of roast beef, ham, sausage, eggs and bacon, along with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado and jalapeños, all flavored with a chipotle sauce.

I decided to try one of the pork dishes — the Chuletas Rojas. This dish consisted of two large pork chops with the bone. Grilled and topped with a red sauce, these chops were accompanied by rice and flour tortillas.

My dining companions ordered Beef Chimichangas, Vegetarian Flautas, Tapatia Salad and Chicken Chimichangas.

Throughout our meal, the server was quick to answer any questions, refresh drinks and see to all our requests in a prompt, personable manner. Our meals arrived without a long wait, and we were all pleased with our choices.

I liked the pork chops, which were nicely seasoned and grilled perfectly. I also liked the zesty red sauce. My friends also reported satisfaction with their meals.

We decided to conclude our visit to Cocula Mexican Grill by sharing a dessert. Our options included some traditional favorites such as Fried Banana, Churros, Sopapilla, Flan and Apple Chimichanga.

We chose to try the Churros, which were drizzled with honey and cinnamon. This dessert consisted of three individual churros, which are sort of liked a stick-shaped doughnut. This dessert provided enough for five diners to enjoy a sweet morsel for the end of the meal.

My friends and I enjoyed our visit to Cocula Mexican Grill. Several of us had enough food to ask for takeout boxes to enjoy some of it later. The next time you’re in the mood for some Tex-Mex dishes, consider visiting with Cocula Mexican Grill. If you go, let them know they were recommended.

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Photo by Bryan StevensThe Chimichangas at Cocula can be filled with beef, chicken or shrimp.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
The Chimichangas at Cocula can be filled with beef, chicken or shrimp.

AT A GLANCE: Cocula Mexican Grill, 3009 Green Line St., Johnson City. 262-0066. Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Menu items $11.50 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.

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