My most frequent dining companion has a serious aversion to street meat, which, as near as I can tell, stems from absolutely nothing logical about the quality of the food. Whenever I suggest a trip to any roadside taco, dog or sandwich maker, my enthusiasm is killed by a slew of mumbling that I've learned is meant to suffice as a counterargument. But it's possible that Jalapeno's Grill has changed all that. Call it a restaurant if you must, but the hole-in-the-wall (an adjective bestowed on only the most favorable of eateries, denoting far more than simply size) is a taco truck in spirit, despite its immobile concrete walls. And the street meat skeptic loved it.
The space is itty bitty, and because a total of four tables constitutes the dining area, count yourself lucky if you get a seat. It was an inaugural visit for me, so I ordered enough food for three meals (much to the amusement of the proprietor). From a long list of dollar taco choices, I ended up with a chicken and a chorizo. Order a taco in any other Mexican restaurant and you'll get a hard-shell corn tortilla. But at Jalapeno's, it's truck-style (and the real deal, as far as I'm concerned): onions, cilantro and meat double bagged in two tiny corn tortillas and served in a flimsy paper dish. No gringo ingredients added.
When my bowl of chicken tortilla soup arrived, I understood why my order elicited a good laugh. Not only had I already scarfed half a basket of chips and two tacos, but my bowl of soup was more like a vat, and I still had a torta on the way out. It was brothy soup with generous portions of shredded chicken and tortilla strips, garnished with red chili flakes and cojita cheese. Unlike the canned version served in most chain restaurants, my bowl at Jalapeno's had that distinctive homemade quality that for so long I thought only my mother was capable of cooking up. Turns out Jalapeno's can do it, too.
The bowl of soup alone would have made two meals for me, and after making a barely perceptible dent, I abandoned it for the loaf-sized torta that had arrived. Chopped carne asada, cilantro and jalapenos lent the Mexican version of a submarine sandwich (complete with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and onions) some south of the border flare, and, like my soup, the torta was enough food for multiple meals.
I carefully packed my leftovers into containers and carted it over to the homebound street meat skeptic for an opinion. Later that day, the skeptic reported back with glowing endorsements for each of the offered samples. Citing Jalapeno's Grill 2 (whose No. 1 location is its truck) as the source, I won a small, unspoken victory as the skeptic determined that perhaps the taco truck was, after all, a legitimate source of a decent meal.
--Rachael Daigle boils her peaches and her peanuts together.
Jalapeno's Grill 2, 201 W. Boise Ave. #104, 344-1404. Mon.-Sat.: 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., closed Sunday.