Review of Jalapeño’s Mexican Grill
By Rachel Lebeaux – Jalapeño’s Mexican Grill opened in Walpole in 2006 in a small space with only five tables. A year and a half later, the establishment moved down the street and expanded — from 18 seats to 150.
“I want to bring authentic food,” says owner Ricardo Dorronsoro, who hails from Cancun and says that many of the restaurant’s recipes are his mother’s. These authentic eats include enchiladas, chiles rellenos and mole. “Ask any Mexican, and they’ll know what you’re talking about,” he said.
You’ll also find some familiar Mexican and Tex-Mex creations. “I can’t get away from burritos – people expect them,” Dorronsoro says with a laugh. Everything is made from scratch or sourced from Mexican providers, he adds.
Jalapeño’s has separate bar and restaurant sections, both expansive. The bar is more sparsely decorated, but is bright and boasts a pool table and televisions. On the restaurant side, the walls are adorned with photography and artwork depicting Mexican scenes. There are also mariachi-dancer figurines, Mexican skull art and fancy tequila bottles, their contents begging to be sampled. Bright colors wash over the plates and bowls; the same lively hues are reflected in the upholstery of the heavy wooden chairs. Spanish-language music is an upbeat soundtrack to the meal.
Dorronsoro says he prefers to station himself in back of the restaurant, overseeing the kitchen and checking on the food as it comes out. But he also serves drinks and meals and interacts with his customers. How does he want these guests to perceive his establishment?
“Just sit down, take off your shoes and relax,” he says. “If you’re in a rush, you’re in the wrong place.”
Drinks: “A few years ago, vodka was booming. Now, tequila is booming,” Dorronsoro says. As such, he offers dozens of varieties, served both straight up and in myriad cocktail configurations.
My house specialist margarita wasn’t cheap at $13, but it was presented in a giant glass – a bowl, really, rimmed with salt. It mingled Jose Cuervo Platino, Grand Marnier, homemade sour mix, lime juice and orange juice. Served on the rocks, the drink was quite strong but went down smooth, and thankfully wasn’t drowning in sugary flavorings, which is too often the case with restaurant margaritas. The regular house margaritas in the same glass are $7.50 each.
One of the evening’s specials was white sangria with peaches. It was tempting, but we opted for the popular “Ricardo’s famous” red sangria ($5.95/glass). Served in a wine goblet, the sangria didn’t have any fruit in it, but the drink was soft, cinnamon-scented and refreshing, with a beautiful fuchsia color.
Appetizers: After the complimentary chips and pico de gallo – diced tomato, white onion, cilantro and jalapeno peppers – we dove into the shrimp ceviche($12.50), which tossed that pico de gallo with chilled, diced shrimp marinated in lime juice, topping the mixture with slivers of avocado. Arranged in a goblet and accented by salted corn chips, the ceviche was light and flavorful.
The menu didn’t indicate that the sopa de mariscos(bowl $6.99, cup $5.99) would be spicy, but it was, and it really hit the spot. The fishy broth, seasoned with chili powder, contained generous lumps of lobster meat, tilapia, swordfish, shrimp and potatoes.
Entrees: You have your choice of fajita fillings at Jalapeno’s; we ordered chicken and steak ($18.99). The grilled meats were served on a sizzling cast-iron platter on a bed of onions and peppers. On the side came the standard fajita fillings: shredded lettuce and cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, black beans, Spanish rice and flour tortillas to wrap it all up in; for $1, we added guacamole. The fajitas were good, although we felt they could have been more seasoned; the menu encourages guests to request spicier food if they wish, and I would probably do so next time. In the interim, the bottled green habanero sauce on the table did the trick.
The enchiladas con salsa roja($12.99), served with a side of black beans and rice, were covered with onions, tomato, cilantro, cheese and a dollop of sour cream. They could have used more salsa and cheese, but the flavors were there. The enchiladas were stuffed with a generous portion of shredded chicken, which we found a little watery; it again benefitted from a shot of habanero sauce to bring the whole dish together.
The pescado achiote tacos ($14.99) — described on the menu as “one of the most popular dishes in the Yucatán peninsula” – featured a nice-sized filet of grilled tilapia on each taco wrapped in a double layer of corn tortillas. The Spanish rice went well, although the vegetables of the day, spinach and mushrooms, needed more seasoning. The Mexican slaw and tomatoes atop the tilapia gave the tacos a very pleasant sweetness.
Dessert: We considered ordering the fried ice cream, but settled on the tres leches cake($6). The yellow sponge cake, soaked in evaporated, condensed and whole milk, was very sweet, slathered with vanilla frosting and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Assessment: Jalapeño’s Maxican Grill offers well-executed versions of both the Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes you know and also some you don’t. If you like your food spicy, don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen to kick the heat level of your dishes up a few notches. And heed Dorronsoro advice: relax and have a good time. The drinks are tasty, and the large, festive dining areas are perfect for groups looking for a fun night out.
Address: 960 Main Street, Walpole MA 02081
Price: Appetizers: $2.99-$13.99, entrees: $9.99-$29.99
Hours: Daily 11am-1am
Features: Separate restaurant and bar area with pool table, Thursday ladies night & drink specials
Recommendations: Sangria, house-special margarita, shrimp ceviche, sopa de mariscos, fajitas, pescado achiote tacos, tres leches cake.
Parking: On-street parking, municipal lot.
Payment Options: All major credit cards
Tagged bar, dessert, enchiladas con salsa roja, fajitas, Jalapeño's Grill, margarita, mexican food, pescado achiote tacos, pool table, Rachel Lebeaux, red sangria, restaurant, Restaurant Review, review, Ricardo Dorronsoro, shrimp ceviche, TableCritic Inc, tex-Mex, tres leches cake, Walpole