Nachos de Mar from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Burrito al Pastor from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Tamal Special from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Chiles Poblano from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Lalo's Enchiladas from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Ceviche Shrimp Tostadas from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Taquitos Dorados from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Queso dip from Jalapenos Mexican Grill in Auburn.
Sunday, July 07, 2019 1:00 am
Seafood nachos tops at Auburn Mexican grill
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
The menu made me realize my trip to Auburn for Mexican food was not in vain.
Jalapeños Mexican Grill in the Auburn Cord Plaza on Grandstaff Drive had plenty to offer, including the staples, but it was the items you don't see every day that excited me.
The Nachos del Mar sounded too good to not have as an appetizer, and they lived up to their description. They were loaded with grilled shrimp and crab with onions, peppers and tomatoes, but what made them deliciously addictive was that they were also buried in shredded cheese and cheese sauce. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the crab shredded so it was present in every bite. With crisp shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole garnishing the top, there was nary a flaw with this dish.
The queso sauce alone was not as enjoyable. It was very creamy and looked the part, but it lacked any real spice or seasoning to give it flair.
The Taquitos Dorados appetizer was a new spin on an old favorite, as the chicken or beef inside was mixed with diced tomatoes and green peppers. They were decent but not as exciting as I hoped, with the chicken outshining the beef. Perhaps it was just that nothing from the starter section was going to compare to those fabulous seafood nachos.
My other taste of seafood, the Ceviche Shrimp Tostadas, was also a decent choice. The shrimp were light, fresh and marinated to have a citrus zing. There was a lot of that shrimp, too, along with just the right amount of diced tomato and jalapeño to not get in the way. The only drawback was its garnish. The avocado slices were firm and not ripe enough, and every dish that had them suffered from the same issue.
The best entrée was the Burrito al Pastor, which used my favorite taco meat in a more substantial way. The bits of pork were a little fatty, which was great and reminded me of that perfect piece from the edge of a good pork chop.
The meat inside was cooked in a smoky red sauce dotted with bits of sweet pineapple that would have been good on anything. The flour tortilla holding the pork was covered in queso sauce, and given that there was plenty of flavor in the filling, the timid queso only needed to provide its cheesy richness to be a perfect accent. A serving of pico de gallo on the side added brightness and texture to each bite.
The simplicity of Lalo's Enchiladas made them worth having again. These corn tortillas could be filled with ground beef or just cheddar cheese and were then topped with more shredded cheese and the restaurant's Ranchera Sauce. I had one of each – two come per order – and that sauce was the draw here, as it was peppery and had a punch of heat, but that heat did not linger. It had much more depth than the standard red sauce.
I was drawn to Jalapeños' Tamal Special from the lunch menu, which featured two tamales: chicken with green sauce or mole, or pork with red sauce, as well as rice and refried beans. I asked for one chicken with green sauce and one pork. The chicken was much better, as the pork was dry by comparison. The chicken was just very moist, and its green sauce far overshadowed the mundane red.
The item that most disappointed was the Chile Poblano. When I took my first bite, I feared it was frozen and not completely fried because there was no oozing cheese leaking out of it. Then I realized these peppers were stuffed with queso fresco, a drier, crumbly Mexican cheese that does not melt well on its own.
I love queso fresco on a sope or as a garnish on about any dish, but not inside my poblano. When my server saw how little of it I ate, she admitted that many people don't like them because of the cheese choice. That begs the question as to why they are still doing it that way.
The service at Jalapeños also left something to be desired. At lunch, the wait for initial service and for each dish was too long for a standard lunch break, and at dinner, there were not enough staffers to cover the crowd, which led to inattentiveness.
Restaurant: Jalapeños Mexican Grill
Address: 640 N. Grandstaff Drive, Auburn
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Nachos del Mar ($11.99), taquitos ($8.19), Tamal Special ($6.25), ceviche tostadas ($10.99), Burrito al Pastor ($10.65), Lalo's Enchiladas ($8.49), chile poblano ($4.25)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★★ (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.