The Suffolk County food truck known as Picante Tex-Mex plied its trade for just a bit over two years, but in that time amassed quite a following among the taco faithful. The eatery’s wheels came off, so to speak, last June, when co-owners Aman Bhola and Vinay Galani went through what both have described as a business divorce. Soon thereafter, Bhola opened Taco Island, a bricks-and-mortar spot in Mt. Sinai and Galani pivoted to his own shop, Chico’s Tex-Mex in East Setauket. Both spots have found audiences, and both count birria tacos among their specialties.
"We just added it to the menu a few months ago, and now it’s the number one bestseller," said Galani, seated in the cheerful dining area of Chico’s, which was previously a Chinese restaurant, and a pizzeria previous to that. Other Tex-Mex hits include the Fiesta, a grilled fish taco dressed with mango salsa, and another with fried cod, coleslaw, tartar sauce and cilantro. All, including the birria, are tasty and go for $4.50 apiece. Also tasty, at least allegedly, is one of Galani’s signature burritos, which counts mozzarella sticks, French fries, chicken tenders, more mozzarella, queso and sour cream among its innards. I am of the age where eating something called a Cardiac Arrest could well induce same, and so I declined.
Galani, 33, grew up in Shirley, by the way, and runs several cellphone businesses in addition to Chico’s, and while he’s proud of its nascent following, his employees — several of whom are Picante alumni — mean more to him than profits, he said. "My staff all lost their jobs, I had to do something for them. We’d had a decent following, and I couldn’t just let these guys go."
Chico’s Tex Mex is at 30 North Country Rd. in East Setauket, 631-371-7777, chicostexmex.com. Opening hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.