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Haute Hot Cuisine

Silver City's Jalisco Cafe is a step up from
your typical taco joint.

When friends from Texas visit, they always tell us they can't get "real" Mexican food back home, so we inevitably take them to Jalisco Cafe. While Silver City has no shortage of good Mexican eateries, this spacious, multi-room restaurant in a handsome brick building on the south end of Bullard Street always seems the nicest. It's the Mexican restaurant where you take out-of-town guests — and we've dined there with guests from as far out of town as Singapore.

Partly it's the decor. Jalisco manages to rise above the luncheonette look without going overboard on tacky faux Mexican pi¤atas, bullfighting pictures and stupendous sombreros. "Understated" best describes it. Though you'll often find tables pulled together for large families — with accompanying free-ranging children — the seating is spaced enough that this feels charming rather than raucous. You and your party can still chat comfortably over chips and salsa, the latter of which is just caliente enough that out-of-towners feel they're experiencing the real deal.

Jalisco's massive menu also goes well beyond the traditional combination plates, though it has those, too. Your typical taco joint doesn't offered marinated halibut, for instance, or steaks grilled with Mexican seasonings. While most entrees hover below the $10 mark, seafood options tack on a few bucks and the biggest steak tops $30.

On our most recent visit, two of us went for standard Mexican fare — a combination plate that included a perfectly breaded, picture-perfect relleno for the Texan, and my usual enchiladas. I'm not really stuck in a rut, I figure, because of all the choices I still have to make: Go with the meat enchiladas or the cheese? Rolled or flat? Ground beef or chicken? And of course, red or green? My stacked, green, chicken enchiladas were tasty, if a little cool in both senses: The middle of the stack was tepid in temperature, suggesting reheating (and not enough of it), and the green sauce reminded me that I prefer the spicier red.

The ladies in our party opted for seafood — a luscious platter of fish tacos for one, the crab tostadas for my wife. She'd previously adored the tostadas as an appetizer — again, not your usual tamale-stand option — and decided an entree would be even better. Inexplicably, this proved not to be the case. Although laden with almost too much crab — she had to employ some of the chips from the basket on the table to supplement the two tostadas — the cold dish proved less appealing as a main event.

The Texan, who was kindly picking up the tab, asked our friendly waiter — who turned out to also hail from the Lone Star State, prompting some instant bonding — for a basket of sopapillas to finish our meal. Soon, a plastic honey bottle and three sopapillas arrived — for our party of four. Getting a fourth pastry took awhile, reminding us that Jalisco's service can be spotty: On an earlier visit, that Singapore guest also ordered the crab tostadas, only to be informed that the kitchen was out of crab. No problem, except this news didn't arrive until all our other entrees were on the table, making for a long, awkward period of picking at our food until her substitute order came.

So, yes, Jalisco Cafe remains our restaurant for finer dining when the occasion calls for Mexican food. But we've learned it's a good thing there's a wide selection of Mexican beers on the menu, to take the edge off any possible disappointments.

— David A. Fryxell

Jalisco Cafe, 100 S. Bullard St., Silver City, 388-2060. Open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Major credit cards, no personal checks.

 

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