Yes, Lunchtime Snobs can eat Mexican, and it’s damn good, if you must know. The purpose of this column is finding great, inexpensive lunches and doggone if Taqueria Chapala Jalisco (1819 McCullough, (210) 735-5352) offers exactly that without leaving the eater with a guilty conscience or an oil-stained shirt.
Taco-hounds familiar with the area might remember Taqueria Chapala Jalisco from its original spot on the southwest corner of Dewey and McCullough. Housed inside a former Pizza Hut, the building was quaint and kitschy, but the parking lot situation usually required a sturdy set of 4-by-4-wheels. But for three breakfast tacos for $2.99, of course I would brave the eyesore lot for cheap and overstuffed bacon and egg tacos.
Now located just kitty-corner from its Pizza Hut digs, after the completion of a drive-thru and a new parking lot, TCJ is still delivering the goods. Admittedly, I had only visited for breakfast before, but the new Hacienda-style beige eatery drew me in for several lunchtime visits. TCJ 2.0 is considerably bigger than its predecessor, but still maintains that familial charm with its omnipresent and multicolored papel picado and other Fiesta-esque decorations. The staff—you’ll see familiar faces from the original spot—is friendly and extremely efficient.
But the food is what really draws you in. The menu is ginormous, so it helps going in with some idea of what you’re craving. The sizable and soft tortas ($4.25) are packed with well-seasoned meat, a bit of mayo, fresh lettuce and tomatoes. A la carte tacos at around $2-$3 easily contain fillings like the saucy guisada in almost-perfect flour tortillas. It really is difficult to find fault in these soft and pliable, yet sturdy house-made tortillas.
Bigger appetites can steer toward the hearty puffy taco plates ($6.50) with fluffy Spanish rice and garlicky refried beans; the tacos are filled with either shredded chicken or ground beef. The gordita plate ($6.50) mirrors the puffy tacos, though good luck trying to eat these with two hands—the gorditas would have benefited from an aluminum foil sleeve to help keep this dish together.
Thankfully, the real stars of this lunchtime show are the mini tacos ($6.25), available with carne asada, pastor and barbacoa. The order comes with three tacos served on a double layer of corn tortillas. The heaping pile of asada is well done, slightly salty and charred just so. A lawn’s worth of fresh chopped cilantro and raw white onions come on the side, while grilled, thick-sliced onions top the tacos. A side of borracho beans—heavy on the garlic, in a good way—completes the meal. Oh, there’s also a whole grilled jalapeño to try if you’re feeling brave. Get these minis, ASAP.
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