El Jalapeno. They do everything right.
This is one of the nicest restaurants I've been in recently. Very clean, tastefully decorated with warm colors and lots of seating areas to accommodate everyone. The walls are painted in reds, yellows and oranges and a wall of colorful bottles of Jarritos soda surround several booths in the bar area. It's warm and inviting, I was pleasantly surprised the moment I walked in.
I was greeted by Pablo Martinez, part owner of El Jalapeno. He informed me that they opened El Jalapeno just three years ago and have been making quite a name for themselves. He was anxious to prepare a Mexican feast for me and I was getting hungry so as he went off to the kitchen, I settled into a booth. I couldn't help but notice an award on the wall. Winner of 2011 Warren Tribune's Readers Choice for best Ethnic Food and also Four Star Rated "Talk of the Town" rated by customers online. I had a feeling I was in for something more than just tacos.
As the aroma of sizzling food was finding its way to my booth, Pablo walked over to invite me to the "center stage" where he had prepared three booths filled with food and drinks. My jaw dropped, my eyes grew bigger (as did my appetite) and my mouth watered with anticipation. Where should I begin.
We sat at the first table that had Chips and Salsa, Seafood Nachos and Seafood Chipotle. The chips and salsa were great, but the nachos. Oh My! This dish sends the nacho-meter over the top. A large plate of chips covered with grilled peppers, scallops, crab, pineapple, pico, lettuce, cheese. These are very special nachos. The seafood was so delicious, the grilled peppers add a bit of smokiness, then the cool pico and lettuce. It's a great blend of flavors and a perfect way to start a meal.
I led my fork to the Seafood Chipotle. Something new for me. Underneath melted cheese I was delighted to find jumbo shrimp and scallops with fresh pineapple in an amazing chipotle sauce. The seafood is cooked perfectly, the sweetness of the pineapple and then the heat from the chipotle. What a great dish. It's served with rich and homemade coleslaw. The coleslaw is cool and creamy. It's the perfect cool down bite that your mouth might need with this one. It's not too hot but it's definitely a winning combination in my book.
Table two was loaded with dishes. Camorones al Pacifico, Carne Asada, tortillas, Charro Beans and Rice, Hot Sauce, Sour Cream, Guacamole and more chips, beer and salsa. Let me just talk about the Camorones al Pacifico. Huge, Huge, Huge. Two skewers, 10 jumbo shrimp stuffed with mozzarella cheese and a strip of jalapeno pepper wrapped tightly in bacon. They're served over a bed of fajita style veggies and come out sizzling hot. Served with a side of Churro Beans, Rice and tortillas, this is one huge dish. I asked Pablo twice if this was actually one serving. He smiled and nodded, "at El Jalapeno the customer is numero uno. Everything is made fresh to order." It's actually one of his favorite dishes. "It's not heavy. It's the perfect blend." I totally agree. The bacon is crisp on the outside, the shrimp is perfectly cooked with just the right bite of cheese and pepper. The Charro Beans are packed with smokey flavors and the rice flavored with tomato, garlic and chicken stock is delicious. It was also my first time eating Carne Asada. Thinly slice grilled steak topped with grilled whole green onions, which by the way were amazing, served with a size of refried beans and rice. Tender steak, seasoned perfectly. With the sour cream, hot sauce and guacamole, wrap a bite of everything in a warm tortilla and you've got a yummy wrap.
On to table three. I couldn't resist the frosty margarita. It was sitting there, surrounded by a giant taco salad and even bigger quesadilla. Icy cold. Thick salted rim and a slice of lime. Ok, I actually grabbed the margarita while sitting at table one and just carried it from table to table. So as I sip the rest of my margarita, I take a bite of the Taco Salad. Pablo says it's a popular lunch item and I can see why. A big crunch tortilla bowl filled with layers of refried beans, ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream. Take your fork, get all the way to the bottom, and you're getting lots of flavors, warm and cool, all in one bite. Love it. I had never before thought to order a taco salad but after tasting it today, I would definitely order this again. Also on the table, was a Quesadilla. As big as the plate but nothing on top. Sliced in fours, I reached in to grab a slice. Well, well, well. Underneath is all the "stuff". Pico, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce. It's all arranged underneath the grilled chicken and cheese quesadilla. I like this idea. This way, nothing falls off the top when you try to take a bite. You get a bite of a perfect quesadilla and a forkful of fixings. It's so perfect, I wonder why I've never seen this before.
As I was finishing up my last bites and sips, the lunch crowd starting arriving. I was amazed at how quickly they were seated, given chips, drinks, orders taken, food on the table and check in hand. I actually watched a table of five gentleman enjoy an appetizer, and their lunch, and had their check in hand in 25 minutes. Now that's good service. Tables starting filling up one by one and each and the same fast service. El Jalapeno is well staffed with friendly, smiling faces. I can't say enough about how impressed I was with this restaurant. If you're looking for a place to go to see how a restaurant should be run, go to El Jalapeno. They do everything right.
I love Mexican Food and after talking with Pablo and eating at El Jalapeno, I love it even more. Who knew there was so much more to Mexican cuisine than tacos and burritos! This is, by far, my favorite place for Mexican food.