Rediscovering Los Jalapeños: A hidden gem in plain sight | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Rediscovering Los Jalapeños: A hidden gem in plain sight

The sauteed fish tacos with camerones at Jalapenos. Tucked away on a stretch of Greenwood Avenue a few blocks west of Pilot Butte, Los Jalapeños is the kind of place that people like to think they "discovered." This tiny taqueria housed in a small stucco yellow building with a shingled roof, red chimney, green doors and a couple of purple picnic tables on the side patio has that air of a hidden gem. The narrow interior with salmon-pink plastered walls, a tropical-themed fresco and a neon Budweiser sign with palm trees has fewer than 10 tables, which line one side of the room. On the other side, fake brick wainscoting, a register window, drink machines and a large menu board serve as a curtain behind which the kitchen hums with activity.

In reality, Los Jalapeños is far from the buried treasure it is perceived to be. It certainly has that charmingly scruffy appeal topped with an ample helping of kitsch, and there is no doubt that you can get quality fare for near hole-in-the-wall prices, but this taqueria is much more of a mainstay than its loyal patrons would like to think. In fact, established in 1996, it's practically old guard. A steady flow of customers visit throughout the day for a line-up of traditional a la carte taqueria offerings, including burritos ($3.50-$7.50), tacos ($2.95-$3.25), enchiladas ($5.50 for two), tostadas ($3.95) and the like, as well as a selection of platters ranging from combo plates to house specialties like Carne Asada ($10.95) and Chile Verde ($9.95), pork in a green sauce with mushrooms, onions, cilantro and zucchini.

Tacos are always a good indicator of what a Mexican restaurant has to offer, and that proved to be true at Los Jalapeños - not breaking the mold, but solid and classic. The ground beef taco was a standard version with well-seasoned meat, lettuce, tomato and cheese on a fresh, soft tortilla. The pork in the pork taco was tender and moist. The steak quesadilla ($5.95) had good flavor, though the guacamole that accompanied it was a little thin for my taste. Burritos range from the plain bean and cheese for $3.50 to specialty combinations for up to $7.50. I chose the student burrito ($5.95), assuming it would be on the smaller side. It wasn't. Served "enchilada-style" smothered in a smoky tomato sauce and melted cheese and topped with a dollop of sour cream, it was stuffed with enough beans, rice and ground beef to last a starving student the whole day. The enchiladas, served the same way, were equally tasty.

By far my favorite dish was the Al Pastor, chunks of beef and pork marinated in chili and spices. I got the platter ($9.95) served with rice, beans, lettuce, tomato and tortillas. The meat had great flavor and was strong enough to support a bite with all the fixings. You can get anything from tacos to burritos with the Al Pastor filling, and next time I will.

Los Jalapeños also offers a selection of Mexican beers and a variety of margaritas, though unless you get a table outside on a sunny day you probably won't end up lingering long enough for more than one. It's not that kind of place. While the atmosphere isn't without its charms, and that divey undiscovered feel may be what drew you here in the first place, it's the solid Mexican food at good prices that will keep coming back.

Los Jalapeños
601 NE Greenwood Ave., 383-1402
Mon.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (9 p.m. in summer)

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