Wednesday, February 11, 2015

El Jarrito Cafe, Blanco Road

On Monday morning, I set out just north of San Antonio's downtown in search of a place I spotted while riding the #2 bus, winding up North Flores, Fredericksburg Road, and Blanco Road. It was just to my right, a little shack proclaiming food from Mexico and some Central American country. I wanna say Honduras, but I don't remember. I was intrigued, so intrigued that I felt obligated roll into that neighborhood again and try the place.

So I hopped into my green Honda and cruised what I recalled to be the same streets the bus headed down, driving well below the speed limit and likely pissing off anyone behind me, looking for this tiny eatery. I scoped out North Flores, then Fredericksburg Road, then Blanco Road to Hildebrand, where my previous bus trip ended, but I couldn't find it. "What the heck?" I thought. This place was beckoning me, and now it's vanished, and we're well into breakfast time, and I don't feel like combing this route again. 

And I wasn't about to go home, either. You don't just sink into taco mode and snap out of it. So, as I was pulling a u-turn back down Blanco Road, the saving grace was just to my left: El Jarrito Cafe, a rustic hash house with a full parking lot. Promising.

So I parked and walked through the double door, delighted to see two bustling dining rooms, forming an L-shape with the cash register in the corner. I'm reassured in busy places like this, where they have to clear the napkins and rogue potatoes off your window-side table before you sit down, and I noticed right off the bat that at El Jarrito you can nom on a budget.

The priciest thing I ordered was a country sausage and egg taco for $1.50, and, to boot, coffee, at least for this customer, was a large Styrofoam cup filled to the top. Scoring major points here, amigos.

And I saw another thing that made me smile. Take a look at this table:

Remember the last post when I mentioned General Tso? Well, it looks like this joint replaced him with chicharr├│nes. Way to use what you already got and bring in the business regardless. Edible proof that hungry patrons often don't give a damn. In fact, it's kind of an added bonus.

I was served pretty quickly. I went for chorizo and egg and country sausage and egg tacos, with potatoes and refried beans on the side. The best thing I had was the chorizo and egg, flavorful pork sausage with a really good red salsa from the squeeze bottle. The tortillas weren't exquisite but clearly homemade and good, and the country sausage, taters, and beans were good but nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, my years living in Western Maryland taught me that you can add enough hot sauce to make anything good.

Friendly service and a homey, family atmosphere. If you dislike crying babies, you may want to avoid, but if you don't care and want taco plates served on Chinese characters, with enough dough left over to buy your girlfriend a beer later, give it a try. I approve, and I'll come back.

$ Bite For Your Buck $

✓Coffee (Warning: The coffee has to be really crappy for me to disapprove.)

Price breakdown:

Chorizo and egg taco
Country sausage and egg taco
Refried beans
$5.38 (I think)


2014 Blanco Road, 78212

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bienvenidos. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Really, just shortly after moving to San Antonio last summer, the idea started rolling around in my head to make the effort to see different parts of town and get my grub on. I mean, doesn't that sound like fun? What a way to get to know your city and eat, eat, eat.

One of the things I like most about San Antonio is its cultural heritage. Located in South Texas, it's no surprise it was a major settlement during the Spanish colonization that took place in the 18th century. After its founding in 1718, San Antonio became the capital and largest town of the Spanish, and later Mexican, province of Tejas. It was, in fact, the northernmost settlement associated with the Hispanic culture of the Valley of Mexico.

Of course, this didn't last. After a whole lot of fighting (deep historical analysis), San Antonio became part of the new U.S. State of Texas in 1845.

Nonetheless, the demographics of the city speak for themselves. San Antonio is now the seventh most populous city in The United States, with about 1.4 million people in the city proper. It should again be no surprise that the city is about 62% Hispanic or Latino (I don't know the exact number. I'm not sure if anyone does.).

With that being said, there's about an endless supply of Mexican restaurants all over town. They're like Starbucks in New York, with hot sauce. You can drive down any given street and see a taco joint on your left, then another on your right on the next block (or the same block). They are everywhere.

And most of these places are not boasting anything unique. By that, I mean they aren't tailoring to a certain gastonomically adventurous, foodie contention. They don't need to. They primarily serve that Hispanic population I mentioned before, and you can easily see (and hear) that if you go to one. Foodwise, they typically offer a set menu of breakfast/lunch plates and tacos, the pattern of which you'll pick up after visiting a few establishments.

I love these places. In my opinion, there's nothing better than waking up on a sunny Saturday morning and going for a plate of chilaquiles and a hot cup of coffee for just a few bucks. That's another advantage. These places generally won't set you back too far, and I'll try to break down the price of the restaurant after each visit, in case you're interested in getting a little more “bite for your buck”.

However, before I delve into the finer points of any south of the border eatery in River City, I want to clarify a few things. The first one is concerning a statement you've probably heard before and that annoys the hell out of me:

That's not real Mexican food.”

Whoever says this gibberish needs to shut up because, chances are, they don't know what real Mexican food is, either. Mexico consists of thirty-one states and a federal district, boasting different environments, climates, ethnicities, languages, and culinary traditions. I had the opportunity to live in a couple Mexican states in college, and, as you may expect, what you find down there is inevitably different than what you get up here. I mean, I can throw down some General Tso's chicken, but are they eating that in China? I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and say no.

Secondly, I'm not looking for the “best taco in San Antonio”. Why? Well, to begin with, that would be impossible. I could comb the entire city eating every taco in sight, but a new joint is always going to open up. Furthermore, that's not the point of the blog. I just want to explore one street, and another, and another, letting you know what's there, in case you happen to be in the neighborhood or want to branch out a little. But if there's a place you recommend, then by all means let me know.

Thirdly, I'm not a food critic. I don't wanna be a food critic. I would suck at being a food critic. I love good ingredients and well-prepared meals with the right company or no company, but I'll leave going over dishes and wine pairings with a fine-tooth comb to the folks who actually get published.

Oh, and one more thing. I don't even have to look; I know there are a hundred taco reviewers and blogs in this town. Truth is, in large part, I'm doing this for me. As I previously stated, it's an excuse to visit new places, meet people, and hoover some Mexican food. And you are free to enjoy this process through me or with me and watch my chins multiply.

So let's get started.

I kinna lucked out on my first adventure 'cause I was already “in the neighborhood”. Some time ago, I took the bus around town just to see some different areas, and during this trip I knew I had a PB&J and a banana in my green, extremely masculine tote bag. However, on that cold, rainy day, I really looked at that packed lunch with a snarl, and I was officially broken while cruising up Nogalitos Street and seeing this place on my left:

This adorable little gem next to a new H-E-B is Rosa's Tacos To Go, and I felt obligated to give it a try. I just had to. It's open from 5:30 AM to 2:00 PM, and I walked in about a half hour before closing. Perfect timing. It's nicely decorated, cozy, and in all sincerity, serves some good food. So good that I came back a second time.

The place was full when I sat my damp self down at a little table in the front room, and upon hearing about their fideo lunch special that day, I had to go with the warm, noodly, meaty, bean-filled soup and a couple flour tortillas that melted in your mouth. I've had plenty of tortillas around San Antone, and these stuck out. The combination of that soft, round flatbread with the fideo and a Coke made me sway my shoulders in my seat to the Norte├▒o music coming from the speakers on the wall (You can tell I was on the bus for a while.).

I don't remember how much it cost, but it wasn't the cheapest. With the added meat and beans, the total price with the tortillas, beverage, and chips and salsa was a little more than seven dollars. Still, not a bad deal, and I'm glad I went there. And I got to meet Roy, “Rosa's” son, at the checkout counter. A very nice guy you should meet if you ever go there, and he highly recommended I come back and try their carne guisada tacos, which they're apparently known for. A large gentleman decked out in Spurs gear also approached the counter, looked at me, and said, “You see that menu? Everything on it is good.”

So I heeded those words of wisdom and came back.

Just last Friday, I made the ten-minute odyssey back to Nogalitos Street to actually try a couple tacos at Rosa's, and it was a pretty decent life choice. I sat at a different table and was served a carne guisada, then a chicken fajita, taco as they were being made, my waitress speaking to me in Spanish for one reason or another. Both tacos were great. Same alta calidad tortillas, tender, delicious meat on both with tasty gravy on the carne guisada. The green sauce on your table provides a delightful burn, and in the end, I was, again, happy with the almuerzo.

I chatted with Roy again upon leaving, and he was his friendly self. We parted with an additional tip to try the enchiladas that are made from scratch daily. So there you go. Roll down to Rosa's. Loosen your belt, and have fideo, tacos, enchiladas, and, apparently, anything else on the menu.

This place gets the John Gahan “MUY RICO” stamp of approval:

(Needs improvement.)

Price breakdown:

Carne Guisada Taco
Chicken Fajita Taco
Chips and Salsa (That's not really an add-on, but, you know, a perk.)


1721 Nogalitos Street, 78225

'Til next time.