It is no secret that Mexican cuisine is fast becoming a favorite amongst us “North of the Border” folks. What‘s not to like? The flavor and spice taste combinations are derived from a culinary heritage that includes not only Spain (who got theirs from the Arabs, Greece, Middle East and even India) but Native American Aztecs and Maya as well.
With this incredibly diverse pedigree, it is troubling that most folks’ idea of Mexican cuisine is centered on one particular location, that of Texas and the neighboring Mexican states bordering the Rio Grande River. This is like stating that the cuisine of Hawaii is the benchmark for all other American-based cookery.
Not that Tex-Mex, as named, is unworthy to be considered “Mexican.” It is merely a regional cuisine and, in its own way, quite good. It can be spicy, in some cases extremely so, but if you don’t like spicy, don’t order it that way.
A new restaurant that does “Tex-Mex”-style Mexican is Los Jalapenos, a member of Unicoi’s Tinker Road dining patch. Los Jalapenos takes pains to let their diners know that not all Mexican food is spicy; they even have it printed prominently on their menu.
The chefs at Los Jalapenos prepare their dishes mild to start with, leaving it up to the customer to decide just how much spice can be added according to personal taste, fortitude or fireproofing.
How their “Authentic, yet mild” slogan relates to their moniker is easily explained. The heat in the jalapeno pepper is located in its inner membrane and seeds. Remove these and you can enjoy a mild and tangy pepper.
Mild and tangy is a good description of Los Jalapenos’ cookery, as the dine-around bunch discovered on a recent visit. We were greeted by their smiling manager Luci, and after a quick run through the menu, our server Pablo took our orders.
I chose a La Casa platter ($6.50) with a chile relleno ($2.35) as a side dish. My dining partner ordered Fajitas Nachos Texas-style ($9) The Dieter decided on a Quesadilla Verde ($5.99) while the Carnivore went light, ordering the Chicken Fajitas ($9.99).
While we were waiting, Pablo brought us a bowl of very fresh corn tortilla chips and a mini-carafe of their picante sauce, heavy on the pureed tomatoes, onions, garlic and light on the cilantro. We’d had about six chips and sauce each when our entrees arrived.
My La Casa was beef tips slow-simmered in a mild mole sauce, and served with melted cheese, rice and beans. I used the tortilla chips instead of the flour tortillas supplied with the meal, and was quite pleased with the result.
My chile relleno was a puzzle. Rather than using a poblano pepper, the chef used a hollowed-out green bell pepper filled with spicy taco beef and covered with melted white cheese. Now, I can see Los Jalapenos adhering to their “Authentic, yet mild” credo as a general guideline to their food preparation. However, constructing a chile relleno around a green bell pepper gets you a green pepper stuffed with beef forcemeat and melted cheese on top; a tasty creation in its own right, but not as a chile relleno.
The Dieter’s Quesadilla Verde had grilled chicken slices with tomato, lettuce, sour cream and guacamole arranged as a salad; the last item providing the “Verde” in the dish.
Our Dieter was pleased with her choice, especially with a dash of the picante sauce added for good measure. My dining partner’s Fajita Nachos had a base of the crunchy corn tortilla chips, rice and beans topped with a grill-out of sliced steak, grilled chicken and shrimp, with lettuce, guacamole, diced tomatoes and sour cream on the side. The melted cheese made a tasty accompaniment to the dish.
Lastly, the Carnivore had a great time with his classic chicken fajitas, grilled breast of chicken sliced and mixed with sliced onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, served on a sizzling platter with rice and beans, and a salad of lettuce, pico di gallo and sour cream as the fixin’s used for tortilla filler. Well, it took five well-packed flour tortillas to do it, but the Carnivore easily re-upped his membership in the dine-around bunch Clean Plate Club.
This is a well-run and spotlessly clean establishment. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, very customer-oriented, and eager to please. Los Jalapenos is definitely worth a return visit. I’m going to keep an eye on this place, folks. I suggest you do the same.
100 Rocky Bottom Drive,
Suite 1 & 2
Mon-Fri 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sun 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Credit cards accepted