Mr. Jalapeno, great Mexican in Lowell, MA
After 4 or 5 visits, I can't really rave enough about this new place in downtown Lowell. It was supposed to open at the beginning of February, but inspection delays held it up until 2 weeks ago. It was worth the wait, everything I have tried has ranged from good to excellent. The staff is friendly, and the few minor service problems I had on my first couple of visits seem to have worked themselves out with a couple weeks experience.
I have tried so far:
Tacos: I have tried chicken and pork with red chile sauce. The flour tortillas are obviously fresh made, sour cream and guacamole is free and the meats have been succulent and plentiful. They also have chicken w/chipotle cream or mole, and carnitas pork.
Chiles Rellenos: The best I have had anywhere, very different almost ricotta-like cheese filling, with an eggy batter. Served with excellent refried beans and rice.
Torta: I have only tried the beef barbacoa. Moist, shredded beef, similar to short ribs in consistency on a huge toasted french bread roll. Probably a third of a baguette with lettuce, tomato, guac, and sour cream. Easily enough for two lunches.
Ceviche: Very fresh and tangy with chiles, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and lime. Served on a fried tostado with more lime and avocado on the side. They also have shrimp and crab ceviches.
Burrito: Tried the fajita chicken. Not huge, but very nicely rolled, not overstuffed and falling apart. Very good.
The menu is really extensive, with tamales, fajitas, sopas, and all the usual suspects(enchiladas, quesadillas, etc.) They are in the process of getting a liquor license so margaritas are on the way. They also have mexican coffee, candies and pastries, and 4 kinds of salsa. They seem to be doing well so far, but there is another Mexican place across the street, so check them out now, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
From what I can determine, it's at 124 Merrimack Street. Google doesn't seem to have a home page for the place, though.
Since Mambo Grill is at 129 Merrimack Street, the two should be nearly across the street from each other. That should make for some interesting competition. I'd say Mambo might have an edge until Mr. Jalapeno gets its liquor license.
If I get to try Mr. Jalapeno, I'll add my own review.
I went to Mr. J's the day after it opened and I was really impressed! There were four of us eating that day and we all left happy. The mole was some of the best I've ever had and I've been recommending Mr. J ever since.
I've never been really impressed with the Mambo Grill and I am so happy to have some good Mexican here in Lowell.
We went to Mr. Jalapeno for mom's day - it was a wonderful meal. My wife was kind of put off by the decor at first, she later confessed, but once the food arrived, all was forgiven. It's not a fancy place at all, with unadorned tables and a side bar - but it's clean. We got our fill of great food, and took some home for about $70 for five adults - of course, no beer or wine, they still don't have their license.
We had a special chorizo quesadilla and a queso fundido (somewhat redundant) as apps. The tortillas all appear to be fresh home made, both flour and corn. The cheeses and chorizo were mexican. The salsa was a mexican salsa, not a pico de gallo or "chunky style".
The family had the chiles rellenos, pastel azteca, and tacos - all delicious. The tacos could be had in either flour or corn tortillas, the corn could be soft or hard - a good way to address the Norte-Americanization issue. In any case, the barbacoa steak was delicious.
I asked for the ceviche, but they were out of the fish, so I had the shrimp. It was good, very limey and somewhat spicy - I would have preferred the fish - maybe next time. It was served on double tostadas, with guac in the middle. We also shared a tamal, which had very little filling, but was otherwise good - not at all dried out, and tasty.
No menudo or lengua (tongue) or really special meat preparations like pastor or carnitas - a simple menu, but done very well.
It was pretty busy for an early Sunday dinner - it was Mother's Day, but most of the folks were single eaters. Lots of places seem to have opened up on Merrimac, including a sushi place and a hot dog place (may have been there for a while, I don't usually pass that way). Maybe downtown Lowell is opening up with MCC bringing in lots of students. I will definitely be back for more.
I don't think Mambo Grill, across the street, is competition, though it may seem so to some. They are definitely cal-mex, with stuffed burritos being their stock in trade. They also make a decent fish taco, with flaky white fish - no mango salsa. But no chile rellenos, and certainly no ceviche.
My one complaint about Mr. Jalapeno (other than the name), is the menu. Gold shadowed hard-to-read font in black on a dark green background. I squinted and moved it back and forth and was able to barely read it, but geez... they have to have new ones printed up - pronto!
I just finished my chicken enchilada takeout - maybe the best I've ever had. My other Mexican experiences include: Old Town in San Diego, Mambo Grill in Lowell, La Caretta in Nashua, Cafe Noche in Conway NH, someplace in San Antonio that I don't remember, and many others not worth mentioning.
I recommend the green sauce and the jalapeño salsa. I'm a fire eater, still enjoying the after burn.
They have other salsas, so don't worry about the heat.
The chips and salsa that I had while waiting for my takeout were also excellent - freshly made, crisp and tasty.
(Un)fortuntately, when I arrived at about 5:30 PM on Thursday night I was the only customer. The wait was non-existent.
I do agree, however, that the gold on green menu is unreadable. When they reprint it, or post it online in readable form, I'd love to try something new (for me).
I spotted Mr. Jalapeno during the folk festival this weekend and went looking for posts. According to the newspaper article (puff piece) in the window, the owners are from Sonora, and what they can't source in Boston or NYC they import directly. They make all their tortillas and tamales. Looks well worth a trip. Any more recent reports?
(Agree on the menu design, godawful.)
Since I first posted on Mr Jalapeno's I have been going there pretty regularly. Still very impressed, although I wish they would get their liquor license. The service has improved considerably, but is still no-frills. I would also recommend the chicken azteca soup, served with pico de gallo, queso fresco, and tortilla strings on the side. I really like the horchatas as well. Check it out.
I also go to Mr Jalapeno regularly and I have nothing by good things to say! Authentic mexican, they've come a long way since their opening in March. New menus have been a great improvment. I'm also looking forward to the liquor license! They supposedly go to court about it on the 18th so I'll be looking for my margaritas by Christmas. Another welcome addition to the restaurant is the live music on Saturdays. I recommend you check out the website, www.mrjalapenolowell.com. I've gotten coupons off it. The regular delivery service is also nice. All together, one of my favoite restaurants! I highly recommend it.