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Published April 07, 2010, 12:00 AM

Restaurant review: Jalapenos serves tasty Mexican fare

Reviewing Mexican restaurants can be dangerous because devotees of Mexican food are fiercely loyal, and definitions of “authentic” Mexican meals can vary.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM

RESTAURANT REVIEW

Jalapenos

2901 Main Ave.

Fargo

Cuisine: Mexican

Ratings:

  • Food: three stars
  • Service: three stars
  • Ambiance: one and a half stars

Reviewing Mexican restaurants can be dangerous because devotees of Mexican food are fiercely loyal, and definitions of “authentic” Mexican meals can vary.

Plus, for many people the chips and salsa will determine a patron’s opinions on these restaurants.

Jalapenos has some tasty salsa, but let’s start with the obvious. The restaurant is in a building tucked between a gas station and a car lot. Out front is Main Avenue and out back are the train tracks. So much for the view. This particular location did its time as a short-lived location for Kroll’s and, before that, a family restaurant called Highway Host. There’s only so much you can do with a space like that. Let’s just say, it shows its age.

Once seated, though, things improve considerably.

The Jalapenos wait staff is friendly, even enthusiastic. They know the menu well, understand the ingredients, happily help you make your selection and are quick to respond to special requests. For instance, if you prefer your enchilada with shredded beef rather than ground beef in Victor’s Special ($8.50), it’s done. Our waiter was easy with conversation and free with suggestions. Our plates didn’t arrive together, but with a little patience, this was forgotten.

Like at most Mexican restaurants, you’ll start your meal with chips and salsa. The red salsa is fresh and bright. But ask for the green and you won’t be disappointed. Low in spice but clean, crisp and tangy, it’s head and shoulders above what’s normally available in the area.

The menu is enormous and takes a little time to get through. It’s worth the effort, and there are a few interesting presentations.

The oddly named Carpa Dorada ($10.99) is a quick-fried whole tilapia that makes a pretty good conversation piece and comes out nicely done with rice and greens – even if it’s a bit bland compared to what you might expect on a Mexican menu.

Like other Upper-Midwestern Mexican restaurants, the fajitas ($10.50) are a good choice for patrons, with these fajitas notable for the freshness of their ingredients. There’s no real wine list on the menu, but the 45-ounce margarita is plenty for two.

What sets this restaurant apart is the value and the feeling that someone has taken care to prepare something just for you. Two people can easily have a meal, including a margarita, and leave with a bill well under $30. Nothing goes directly from refrigerator to the oven and, yes, there really is a grill back there.

Is Jalapenos authentic? You make the call. I’m not going to make that mistake again.


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.

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