Welcome to south Sarasota, Jalisco Mexican Grill!
Perhaps it’s just me, but I associate Mexican cuisine, in all its glorious forms and permutations, with a festive celebration. I guess that may have to do with the fact that I met my wife on Cinco de Mayo “eve” and began our lifelong love affair with each other (and food!)
So we watched with great anticipation after the “coming soon” sign at Jalisco went up. And waited while they spent months renovating the property.
It wasn’t but for a few weeks after Jalisco opened, that my car, (all on its own, wink! wink!) inexplicably turned into Jalisco’s parking lot and I found myself at the bar ordering lunch . . . by myself.
Soon after seating, I was greeted with a basket of corn chips and salsa, as well as the unexpected delight consisting of a serving of a warm, seasoned black bean dip – WARNING! This dip is habit forming! I munched away, dipping Jalisco’s homemade corn chips into the bean dip first, and then into the freshly made salsa. I was won over before I even looked at the menu’s extensive offerings.
Wanting to make this a quick snack, vs an entire meal, I chose the Nachos de Peurco with a bean topping, and the lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream, and Jalapenos on the side. I munched and sipped happily with the Jalisco Margarita in the “home of the best margaritas.” Now let’s not quibble about the best-this-best-that. I’ve never met a margarita that I didn’t like, and this was terrific.
When I told Jill that I had gone there, she made me promise to take her on our next date night.
Jill agreed fully with my appreciation of the bean dip that comes with the chips and salsa. (We ordered seconds!) However, I stayed with the Jalisco Margherita and she tried the Cucumber Margherita. Suffice it to say, we were both happy!
Jill spent some time on the menu, wanting something classic, so she ordered the Enchiladas Al Carbon. When the dish arrived at our table, it looked every bit the classic Mexican combo. The refried beans were as she’d expected, as was the rice.
However, she looked at me, a bit disappointed. “I should have read the menu better,” she said. “I thought it was beef enchiladas, but these are cheese., and there’s a cheese dip on top, versus freshly grated cheese.” I took a bite and I liked her dish, but it appears my usually easy to please wife was not a fan of the cheese dip on top. Looking around the restaurant, which was packed, she noted that maybe she needed to come back and try something else. After all, I liked her dish, even if she wasn’t enthralled.
My choice that evening was the Molcajete (#34 on the menu if you’re keeping track at home.) Let me tell you, this was absolutely a stand-out! Sizzling beef, shrimp, pork, and chicken are grilled and served with cactus, melted cheese and a side dish of rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo and guacamole, as well as hot, fresh flour tortillas. The best part is the Molcajete is served in a piping hot lava rock that keeps the dish sizzling long beyond the time it took to eat it.
Not only a feast for the eyes, the Molcajete is a treat for the senses, with aromas and flavors memorable from the first bite to the last. It was also so large that I not only shared some with Jill but also took some home, making sure it wasn’t too hot to melt the takeout container!
Not more than a few days later, Jill returned to Jalisco on her own for lunch, ready to order one of the items she had been considering during our last visit. On this occasion, the Puff Taco won her over big time! We all know that corn tortillas are crunchy, while flour tortillas are more soft and pliable. With the Puff Taco, Jalisco turns that concept on its head, deep frying a large flour tortilla until its puffed up and crunchy. Coupling that with seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese, the Puff Taco is topped with a spicy chili con carne. I can honestly say it was delicious because the taco was so large she cut it in half and brought enough leftovers for
her my lunch the next day!
After each of us having been to Jalisco’s twice, we decided to return for an impromptu lunch, sans automotive intervention. You can order off the main menu, but there’s also a lunch menu offering a number of classic combinations, I quickly noted the Speedy Gonzales lunch combination and just had to have it. Maybe my emotional attachment to Mexican food is rooted in Warner Brother’s cartoons? (I may be better off sticking with connecting the dots to meeting my wife.)
The Speedy Gonzales was more than a lunch should be. With just one bite into the dish, I was blown away with the quality of the chili relleno, a roasted and stuffed charred Poblano pepper worthy of its own star billing, with a perfect spiciness that inspired an exotic dance on my taste buds. Served with the chili relleno was a generous and equally delightful beef burrito, and a shredded beef quesadilla that was, frankly, so big I took a few bites and decided to save it for a late night snack. That’s the nice thing about the Mexican combination plates . . . having tried the Speedy Gonzalez, I now know, without a doubt, that I’m coming back for the Chili Relleno dinner!
As with my dish, Jill had more than she could bite off with her Los Dos Amigos lunch combination. Featuring a beef taco and a beef enchilada, her lunch was served with yellow rice and tasty refried beans. I will add that she kept the salsa at the table long enough to dribble some on the fresh corn tortilla taco!
I’m feeling good about Jalisco’s future. After all, we’re talking about 4 separate visits, and except for Jill’s issue with the cheese dip, Jalisco delivered delicious, hot and flavorful food every time. (But trust me, the bean dip served with the chips and salsa is amazing!)
Desserts? Yikes! That’ll have to wait until the next time we want to celebrate this fabulous new addition to Sarasota’s vibrant Mexican food scene.