Red or Green?
Food and Family
Four generations have made Silver City's Jalisco Café a success.
by Peggy Platonos
For 30 years, Silver City residents and visitors have been flocking to the Jalisco Café for good Mexican food, and it created a bit of a stir when the popular restaurant closed down for a period of time recently. But have no fear — it was simply to permit some major remodeling. Jalisco's is now open again, looking better than ever.
Jalisco Café founder George Mesa (left) poses with his son, Michael, now stepping into the role of owner-manager. The colorful wall and tapestry are part of the new decor created by Cecilia Mesa, George’s wife and Michael’s mother. The brick-framed arch is one of four that link the different sections of the restaurant. Each section used to be a separate storefront, and the arches were created after George purchased the entire building in 1988. Up to that time, the cafe occupied just one of the storefront spaces. (Photo by Peggy Platonos)
There are brand-new tables and chairs, a new oak floor in several of the dining sections, and brightly painted walls with colorful south-of-the-border decorations throughout the restaurant. Behind the scenes, the kitchen has been spruced up, too, with a new epoxy floor in place of the old tile, freshly painted walls, and an improved air-conditioning system.
The menu, however, remains the same. Why mess with success?
"We're taking a look at the menu, but with the idea of adding a few new items, not taking away the dishes we started out with," says Michael Mesa, who is now moving into the role of owner-manager in the restaurant founded by his father, George, in January 1984. "My grandmother, Mary Mesa, had had two Jalisco Cafés in other locations in Silver City before this one, and she helped get this one started by supplying her own tried and true recipes."
Those recipes are still used at the Jalisco Café.
"We are known for our chilis, which we process ourselves in-house. The red chili is made from pods, not powder. The green chile peppers are roasted here. Our salsa is homemade," Michael says. "At first, it was just combination plates, with tacos, burritos, enchiladas as the only choices and sopapillas as the only dessert. Those are all still on the menu, of course, and they're still made as they originally were. Through the years, we've added steaks, salads, and a few other American items. But our number-one bestseller is chicken tacos, with beef tacos second."
"Originally, the restaurant was just one room — one in a string of small storefronts," George chimes in. "They all had strange doors — so small I had to duck my head to enter."
In 1988, George bought the whole building, and his uncle, Eddie Mesa, did the remodeling, cutting archways to link the individual stores, and framing the arches with antique bricks. The archways still exist, providing scenic passageways from one dining section to the next.
The building, incidentally, was constructed in 1923 and is now registered with the Historical Society in Santa Fe.
"We started out with seating for 43 people," George says. "Now we seat 154."
To serve that many customers, Michael is now heading up a staff of about 40, but the Jalisco Café remains a family business, with Michael's oldest daughter, Megan, in charge of the front of house, and his middle daughter, Morgen, working in the restaurant on weekends.
That makes four generations of the Mesa family who have been involved in a restaurant that remains family-friendly, with a children's menu featuring kid-sized taco plates, taquito plates and burrito plates.
Prices for adult-sized Mexican meals range from $6.99 for Bean Tostadas (three) or $7.19 for a Chili Bowl with Beans, to $12.99 for a Large Beef or Chicken Combination. That combination includes two ground beef or chicken tacos, two rolled red or green cheese enchiladas, a stuffed chile relleno with rice and refried beans, as well as a sopapilla with honey for dessert or on the side.
The menu offers a choice of New Mexico-style flat enchiladas (red or green, ground beef or chicken) for $10.49, rolled enchiladas (same options) for $8.99, or flat cheese enchiladas (red or green) smothered in enchilada sauce for $8.59 — all served with rice and refried beans.
Taco plates offer three beef or chicken tacos for $8.79 or a combination with one ground beef, one chicken and one shredded-beef taco for $9.19. Shredded beef or chicken taquitos also cost $9.19 for three, and a chile relleno plate costs $9.89. These plates all come with rice and refried beans.
If you prefer pork, you can choose a Taco de Carnitas plate (three pork tacos with rice and refried beans) for $9.09. Seafood lovers can opt for the Fish Taco plate made with battered cod in soft tortillas and served with rice and whole beans for $10.29.
Ribeye steaks, cooked to order, are available in three different sizes: 8-ounce ($16.99), 12-ounce ($25.49) or 16-ounce ($33.89) — all served with two rolled cheese enchiladas, rice and beans.
The quesadilla appetizers are generous enough to be light meals in themselves, and range in price from $4.19 for a simple cheese quesadilla to $7.59 for a Green Chili Chicken Quesadilla. Another light-meal option is the Chicken Tortilla Soup, topped with pico de gallo, avocado, crisp tortilla strips and a lime wedge for $6.59.
Are you hungry yet?
If you have members of the family or guests who are not keen on Mexican food, there's plenty for them to choose from, too. Hamburgers, all served with French fries, range from $6.39 for a basic burger to $9.19 for a Double Meat Mushroom Burger. The wide variety of sandwiches on the menu, also served with French fries, include old American favorites like grilled cheese ($5.29), tuna ($6.79), grilled chicken ($6.79), hot roast beef ($6.79) and BLT ($6.79), and also a couple with a southwestern twist, like the Guacamole BLT ($7.39) and the chicken club sandwich ($8.29), which includes avocado and a jalapeño garnish along with the traditional ingredients.
Imported and domestic beers are available, as well as New Mexico wines.
Desserts? Yes, indeed. If you still have room, you can top off your meal with chocolate mousse, key lime pie, mandarin orange cake, apple pie, chocolate cake or crème brûlé. Or a sopapilla, of course.
The Jalisco Café is located at 103 S. Bullard St. It is open Monday through Saturday, closed on Sundays. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. — except for Fridays, when the restaurant closes at 9 p.m.
For more information, call (575) 388-2060. But be advised that it is a longstanding policy at Jalisco's not to take reservations. It is strictly first come, first served.
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for
restaurant reviews at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (575) 536-2997.