Since moving to Bend, I've noticed some things about well-established, long-standing eateries around town. Many reject social media and the internet, bypassing a website for word-of-mouth reviews and print advertising. I've also found that restaurants in Bend serve specific niche markets including the business lunch crowd, the hungry student crowd and the stay-at-home mom crowd. I often find myself in the thick of it: lunching amongst Bend's tie-wearing elite and hitting happy hour among value-seeking students later that day. Each niche group would probably argue that they go to the best restaurants, but "best" is subject to personal opinion.
For some, the best restaurant might be the one that serves the most food for the least amount of cash. For others, it's the one with the most organic options, while the status seekers believe the best restaurant is that one that drizzles truffle oil on everything. I'm regularly surprised by the many options for the best food in town. Having heard that Los Jalapenos serves some of the best Mexican food, I visited it on a Saturday afternoon.
The patio offered seating and ample sunshine even for a chilly day and invited us with top-20 tunes. The restaurant is kid-friendly, brightly lit, clean and colorful. A mural of sea creatures decorates the otherwise simple patio area. My companion and I received our drink orders promptly - he a Negro Modelo, and I a classic margarita. Both were refreshing choices that complemented our meals well. Between us, we ordered a chile relleno, steak fajita nachos and two tacos.
While it's tough to go wrong with a chili relleno, a battered green chili stuffed with cheese and Los Jalapenos did not disappoint. Some would argue that it's all about the chili, others might say it's more about the batter. In either case, Los Jalapenos did a nice job on this dish. The batter was thick with just the right amount of egg to make it fluffy, almost omelet-like in consistency. The chili was flavorful and added kick to the dish. The cheese oozed and melted as it should. The traditional tomato sauce that accompanied the dish added flavor.
Since we'd arrived during happy hour, I ordered a happy-hour special - two tacos and a margarita for $7.95. Talk about great value. I requested one carne asada and one chicken taco. While the chicken taco offered an impressive portion of chicken, the meat was very dry. In contrast, the carne asada meat was tender and juicy. Both tacos came with onions, lettuce, cilantro and cheese and were served on corn tortillas. If you're not a margarita lover, Los Jalapenos also offers a great lunch special: $5.50 for a hearty bean, cheese and rice burrito plus a soft drink.
My companion's fajita nachos impressed him. The nachos were well layered with seasoned, tender beef and generous amounts of sour cream and guacamole on top. Sauteed peppers, onion, zucchini and broccoli made it a healthier option than expected. We were hoping that a place called Los Jalepenos might offer fresh jalapenos, but we were OK with the canned variety that topped the nachos since there was a lot to like about the dish.
Located on Greenwood, Los Jalapenos serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in Bend. The vast menu offers all of the classics - burritos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, chili rellenos - and more. While this isn't high-end cuisine - and it's not supposed to be - it is good food at a great value. Some may even call it some of the best Mexican food in town for its value. Los Jalapenos certainly has its appeal - flavorful, hearty portions including freshly made items like salsas and chorizo plus a cool dive vibe that caters to those searching for a quick, flavorful meal.
601 NE Greenwood Ave Bend