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Adventures in takeout: At El Charolais, perseverance pays

Mystery Diner • May 12, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Running a restaurant in “Interesting Times” requires a restaurateur to do the hardest task ever required of anyone in business. That task is to persevere, to keep going toward a goal of continual success day after day. The restaurateur must strive each day to keep the restaurant’s doors open, despite a change in your main revenue source from dine-in to takeout and delivery.

Jose Luis Jauregui is the proprietor of the El Charolais restaurants in Johnson City and Elizabethton. As one of the best restaurateurs in the Tri-Cities, Jauregui spent 10 years learning the business by working locally at his brother’s restaurant. Through good times and bad, Jauregui has used the knowledge he acquired over that 10 years along with his ability to persevere and made his restaurant, (or restaurants, come to think of it) a success. Two of his success stories can be found here in Johnson City; the original on West State of Franklin Road and another on the Bristol Highway. The third location is on Broad Street in Elizabethton.

In stay-at-home times like these, The El Charolais on West State of Franklin Road is the meal-time salvation of my dining partner and I. Food reviews made out loud on the spur of the moment regarding home cooked meal content, method of preparation and digestibility when the cook is present at the same table as you, can cause hurt feelings at the very least. The result was that my dining partner and I decided to use Jauregui’s take-out service recently. We were not disappointed.

Even though he had complied with the statewide closure of restaurant dining rooms, Jauregui has kept his business going by concentrating on takeout and curbside delivery orders. Additionally, Jauregui has supplemented phone orders with a new, online takeout ordering system that can be found on El Charolais’ Facebook page.

Chicken & Beef Fajitas: My dining partner couldn’t decide whether to get grilled chicken or the grilled beef for her dinner.

“Why not try both?” suggested Miriam, El Charolais’ Maitr’d who was taking our phone order, and suggested the chicken and beef fajitas platter ($11.95), which pleased my dining partner. An El Charolais specialty, this fajitas entrée takes thin-sliced pieces of white meat chicken together with thin strips of beefsteak and grills them together with coarse-chopped bell peppers, thinly-sliced onions and chunks of tomato. Fajitas at El Charolais comes with a “salad” bowlful of fixings, containing some tangy pico di gallo relish, some spicy green guacamole, a good dollop of cool, smooth sour cream and a stack of flour tortillas.

It was good good to see my dining partner spreading guacamole and sour cream on a steamy-hot tortilla, adding the pico di gallo, and then spooning in the fajitas mixture before wrapping up the tortilla into a makeshift burrito and taking a big bite out of it. The smile on her face was not only due to the taste of the meal but also because Mr. Jauregui saw to its preparation and she didn’t.

Shrimp Ceviche: It had been over six long weeks since I’d last enjoyed an order of ceviche camaron, or shrimp ceviche as done by El Charolais, and I was determined not to let another day go by without satisfying my craving. Not being overly hungry, I chose a lighter order served on a crispy corn tostada ($5.95). The ceviche uses the acidity from fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice to give the shelled, de-veined and chopped shrimp a firm, cooked texture. It also adds a tangy sparkle to the flavors found in a mixture of chopped onions, cilantro, diced cucumber, tomato and (sparingly) hot sauce. El Charolais tops the ceviche with a much-needed antidote: some freshly-peeled and sliced avocado. Each forkful is a bite to be lingered over and then chased with a broken chip of the crunchy tostada. Was it delicious? You bet.

The bottom line: Johnson City needs small business owners like Jose Luis Jauregui, a man who, rather than closing down what he worked so hard to build up, continues to stay open and work his business, even in reduced circumstances. When my dining partner went by El Charolais to pick up our order, she learned from Miriam that, though the employees’ work schedule had been adjusted somewhat, every one of the staff was still working. All the employees were looking forward to the dining rooms opening back up as soon as possible, and my dining partner and I can’t wait to join our friends, the dine-around bunch, all seated at our regular table at El Charolais once again. Like Jose-Luis Jauregui, we must all learn to persevere.

As of April 27, El Charolais had limited inside dining at all its locations. “Self-distancing” and the “6-Foot Rule” were being followed.

El Charolais

1805 W. State of Franklin Road, Suite No. 400

Johnson City

928-0929

Mom-Thu 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Fri – Sat 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Sun 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Pickup and Curbside Delivery

Limited Inside Dining

Credit cards accepted

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