Chiapas is a southern Mexican state bordering Guatemala.
It’s also one of the the best Mexican restaurants in Dayton.
Since opening in Centerville at the end of 2015 in a space that was formerly home to the House of Kabab, it’s a modest restaurant with fewer than 50 seats inside split between three booths and a few tables.
Be prepared to wait — especially on Fridays and Saturdays during peak hours.
If you enjoy a cocktail, kick the meal off with a margarita … one in which you can actually taste the tequila and lime and not just the too-sweet sour mix ($5.49 for 16 ounces, $7.49 for 24 ounces).
The food is just as good.
During multiple recent visits and many trips over the last couple of years I have found plenty to like on the menu. There are steak ($13.99), chicken ($13.99) and shrimp fajitas ($16.49), but the show stopper is the fajita de seafood ($16.99) featuring a large tilapia filet, grilled shrimp, small scallops and crab along with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes served alongside the traditional rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, tortillas and pico de gallo. This is a dish that could easily be shared along with an appetizer depending on how hungry you are.
The traditional tacos ($2.75 each) are served on a soft corn tortilla filled with your choice of meat and topped with cilantro and onions and a wedge of lime. The carnitas and pastor — shepherd-style marinated pork with pineapple mixed in for a little pop — have always been quite good, but the cow tongue ($3.25 per taco) is the standout. Tender and perfectly cooked with the right amount of char, the dish is incredibly flavorful and satisfying. If you have never had tongue and are feeling adventurous and enjoy eating red meat, I highly recommend.
The chicken enchiladas ($11.99) topped with a bright, refreshing verde sauce were packed with chicken — more so than other enchiladas. In fact, many dishes seem to be generously portioned in this way, especially when it comes to the amount of protein included.
Guacamole is like a Mexican restaurant’s fingerprint. Always a little bit different, it’s a calling card for what’s to come. Chiapas’ is creamy and savory. A guacamole appetizer ($3.99) can disappear before you know what’s happened.
The tamales ($7.99 for three) are fantastic. The tortas sandwiches ($9.99 for steak and chicken, $10.99 for the Cuban with steak, chorizo, ham and pineapple) topped with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, onions, mayonnaise, cheese and avocado served with French fries are a delicious deal. The pozole soup ($10.99) made with chicken and hominy is intensely satisfying. The camarones alambre ($14.49) featuring 12 bacon wrapped grilled shrimp topped with cheese sauce are decadent and dreamy. The carnitas ($12.99) pork shoulder is a meaty treat.
The chimichangas ($12.99) burritos ($12.99), quesadillas ($13.99) and carne asada ($14.99) are what you’d expect and are looking for.
There are very few things not to like on this menu.
Top it off with some fried ice cream ($3.50) if you’re feeling festive and need a sugar fix after the main course.
At my most recent visit a gentleman at the register checking out loudly proclaimed, “This is our favorite New Mexican place.”