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El Jarro, Lafayette

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This little Mexican eatery was originally named Los Jarritos, but recently had to change its name to El Jarro due to threat of being sued by Los Jarritos of Mexico which is on a mission to protect its name internationally. Anyway, I had read positive reviews in the local press, plus my neighbor recommended it too. It is located a few doors away from Lily's House on Mt. Diablo Blvd. There are a few tables outside and out on the back patio. The first time we went was on a Saturday and we waited a few minutes outside. During that time I saw someone get a taco salad which looked amazingly good. I almost ordered that, but decided to get the grilled tilapia veracruz style. We also ordered an appetizer plate with chicken taquitos, cheese quesadilla and a bean and cheese tart (don't know the name of this, as it was substituted for the chicken drummettes we thought we were getting). The taquitos were excellent - the corn tortillas were very fresh, with a well seasoned filling. The guacamole that came with the platter was really fresh too.

My tilapia dish was good, but not as eye opening as the taquitos. My daughter got a chicken burrito which she loved, but could only finish half it was so big. My husband enjoyed his carne asada very much. I had a mojito and husband had a marguerita with dinner, both excellent. Even the mix in the Coke that my daughter got was good, plenty of kick upon the first sip.

They also serve flan and some other Mexican desserts, but we were too full to go further. The chef works in the middle of the room, so that you can wave to him when you come in the door. There was just one waiter that night but he was very efficient. I went away that night still thinking about the taco salad.

I went back 2 days later with my daughter for an early dinner. She had the quesadilla platter and I had the taco salad. Wow, freshest and best that I've ever had. The shell tasted like it was fried to order. The lettuce, tomatoes and beef filling were perfectly proportioned and if you let the cheese that is sprinkled on top sit for a few minutes, it gets melted and adds another texture. It is served with the excellent guacamole and sour cream. All I asked for was a dish of hot sauce and I was in heaven. Who needs Taco Bell when you can have this.

Prices are reasonable and portions very generous.

El Jarro Mexican Cafe
3563 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Lafayette CA 94549

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  1. Anli, thanks for reminding me about this place. Haven't tried it yet, but have heard rumors of Oaxacan specialties to be had here. See anything like that on the menu?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Yah, I have. Whenever I'm in Lafayette I go there. I've probably been more than 30 times. The one Oaxacan specialty they do very well there is the tortas. They have some of the best tortas in all the bay area as far as I've seen. They are filling, cheap, and very tasty. My mom lived in Oaxaca for 3 years and they even passed her tasting test. The Cancun is my favorite torta they make.I'm addicted to teh hot sauce that comes with the burritos. It goes good on anything.

      1. re: SamuelA.L.

        Thanks! What differentiates a Oaxacan torta as served at El Jarro from other Mexican tortas?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          The best tortas are in Oaxaca, and that the torta was originally created in Oaxaca. They are also most common there, besides maybe Mexico City. Also, many other places make theirs with less meat and flavor and mor bean paste, yuck!!!! I find the ones here better than most others in Contra Costa County, but I'm still surprised that it's in Lafayette.

    2. I'm glad that someone else has discovered this restaurant. Lafayette deserves some good non-chain 'sit down' Mexican and hopefully locals will appreciate it (knock wood). Pray that it will thrive by taking business from El Charro and Celia's.
      SamuelA, we're still waiting for more details on what makes the Oaxacan torta unique and special :-) - my menu's at mom's house.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DiveFan

        It's not that it is specifically a Oaxacan specialty, but that it originated in Oaxaca. Sorry for the mix up. I guess I phrased it wrong. But either way they make a pretty good torta.

      2. I had a nopales dish here a few months ago - waitress' explanation was that it was grilled young agave leaves. Really delicious.

        1. The East Bay Express did a review on El Jarro this week focusing on the "Oaxacan tortas that eat like meat epiphanies".

          They are described as packed "with seared meats and Oaxaca cheese" and less like the typical torta and more "like those exquisite Tuscan porchetta sandwiches Oliveto serves up each summer at the Rockridge street fair"


          The descriptions of the tortas are drool-inducing. There's also tasty description of the taco salad which is favorably mentioned in this topic. It is called picadillo Oaxaqueño and John Birdsdall said it was reminisant of a Thai larb.

          Birdsdall says the enchiladas Placeras, a regional variation from that Oaxacan town, may not be for everyone, but he makes it sound interesting.

          Another brief mention

          Any updates on El Jarro?

          1. Another vote for the grilled nopales, my favorite dish there!

            Lafayette has at least 7 "Mexican" restaurants which run the gamut from awful to great - El Jarro is definitely the best of the bunch. When it opened I thought "great, just what the town needs" but realize now it is a welcome breath of fresh air/food.

            1. On Monday I swung over to Lafayette to meet a friend for lunch at El Jarro. This was a first time for both of us. He arrived before I did and had asked which dishes on the menu were Oaxacan. The cryptic response was that they're blended in. Okay.

              When I got there before noon, two other tables were filled with los machos. We admired the enchilada plate one had. We started with some chips, salsa and guacamole. I figured that if there's an extra charge for chips, they must be good, and I was proved right. They're fried to order, so they're extra crackly, thin, and very hot. Be careful to not burn your fingers. Tomato salsa was just ok, but I did like the guacamole which had a little bit of diced tomato in the buttery mash of avocado.

              My companion had one of the day's specials, mahi mahi salad. This was strips of deep-fried mahi mahi on a bed of greens with a delectable orange chipotle dressing served on the side.

              I wanted a torta, after hearing so much about them here. I asked the waiter to help me choose between one that had beef milanesa with chorizo and the Toluca, made with grilled slices of roasted pork loin, chorizo and Oaxacan cheese. He said, "you want the Toluca".

              As mentioned, the torta didn't have the layer of frijoles I've been accustomed to. Also, it was not pressed. The light textured bollilo was grilled on the cut edges and slathered with mayo, and none of the crumb was pulled out. The torta was packed generously with a couple thick slabs of pork, a layer of well-rendered and crumbly chorizo on the bottom, and topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and some mashed avocado. Pickled jalapeno slices were served on the side. The Oaxacan cheese was melted. This was a fine sandwich, if lacking in fire power. Half of the $7.95 torta was filling enough for lunch.

              Toluca torta

              By the time we left, the small dining area was nearly full with the office lunch crowd. Unlike the earlier machos, they were all eating salads or burritos.

              National Hispanic Heritage Month

              El Jarro
              3563 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melanie Wong


                I'm glad you have visited this wonderful little place. It is much different from the typical Mexican places. I think this and Maria Maria, Walnut Creek are quite good and above most Mexican places.

                BTW, we had dinner at The Refuge with Bill & Jane a little while back and they mentioned your liking for the place. Jane spoke very highly of you - enough so that I decided to re visit Chowhound on occasions as I had gotten out of the habit.