Thursday, July 23, 2009

"The Jalapenos"

Los Jalapenos
1800 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 468-1828

Torta=delicious Mexican Sandwich.

I had heard about Los Jalapenos before moving just around the corner, into my new Pennsport digs. Having spent 6 years in the West, I have eaten quite a lot of Mexican food and though the burrito is a go-to when trying out most places for the first time, the torta is a consistent barometer to test the level of hand-crafted love given to an establishment’s food. This is very important in Mexican cuisine. There is a thin line between greasy, heavy food and succulent, flavorful delights from South of the Border.

On the corner of Fourth and Moore, you will find the takeout-gem that is Los Jalapenos(also free delivery on orders over $10). From the outside, it looks like an old hoagie shop that was over-run with Mexican groceries. Well, that’s because that is exactly what Los Jalapenos happens to be. They have a good collection of Mexican food stuffs - perfect for that last-minute moment you decide you want to turn your dinner protein into tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas etc. They have a variety of Mexican cuisine-common produce, and a selection of dried chiles. They also carry the Queso Fresca that leaves me craving chunks of cheese long after dinner. I think of the Queso as tasting like a hybrid of fresh mozzarella and fresh feta. Whew. So good. But when you get to the back of this little bodega, you realize there is a hot, steamy, fully functioning kitchen back there, and boy, does it function.

Los Jalapenos has consistently impressed me with all of their items, not to mention the price and value. However, thus far in my torta quest, they have produced the best Philly torta I have eaten to date. The only catch? It’s not on the menu….

Luckily, Los Jalapenos is more than happy to make tweaks (not tweets) to their offerings to satisfy picky consumers. I don’t know the reason that many places don’t offer Al Pastor as a choice of filling for tortas on their printed menus, but most are willing to oblige the spoken request - and how glad I am that they are. Al Pastor is like a BBQ pulled pork, Hawaiian style. In Mexico, it is cooked on a spit (much like Gyro meat) where it is shaved off and stuffed into tacos. I have eaten Al Pastor tacos in numerous small towns around the Baja, and they are amazing. Thus, I always try the Al Pastor when I try a new Mexican eatery. I also tend to really like the flavor synchronization of the various ingredients of the torta…

Los Jalapenos serves their tortas in the traditional style—with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, queso and jalapeno. I ask for Al Pastor, and it is no problem. The sweet, savory Al Pastor goes great with the fresh ingredients, and the salsas they provide on the side offer two contrasts in flavors that allow you a spicy green tomatillo kick with one bite, and a smoky tomato taste with the next. One problem with many tortas, they tend to be dry. The Al Pastor helps keep everything moist, as it is dripping with a pork and pineapple combo that complement each other so well; it is hard for me to order anything else. That doesn’t mean don’t try anything else here, they have things like pork and plantains, and grilled shrimp with chipotle mango sauce (on the burrito menu) that are also dynamite, but I would suggest trying these torta style – the spoken request will surely be honored. You might be surprised with how amazing the tortilla crowd makes a sandwich.

No comments: