Jalapeño Joe's on Airport Boulevard
I drove by this place last week while out looking for new eats. It's located at 4905 Airport Boulevard at 49 1/2 Street (next to Mrs. Johnson's Donuts). It has the appearance of a small-town drive-in burger joint, with its walk-up counter and outdoor seating.
Since that first sighting, I've returned a couple of times to check out the chow. Bad news first: It wasn't great. The burger special ($3.69) consists of a quarter-pound burger with fries [or onion rings] and a fountain drink or iced tea. The hamburger was similar to the kind served at Sonic or Whataburger but with fresher toppings: thin, pre-processed beef patty on a standard, commercial bun that was dressed with iceberg lettuce, tomato slices, pickles, onions, and mustard. There was a hand-lettered sign that said fresh-cut fries for no charge. Apparently, that means that you have to specifically request them. The limp, greasy fries that I was served were of the previously-frozen, shoestring-cut type. The onion rings were better. Their breading wasn't incredibly flavorful, but the rings were pretty darn crunchy even 30 minutes later. They sell some sodas by the can as well as Jarritos by the bottle. RC Cola and Big Red are among the choices for fountain drinks.
As for their tacos, I was only able to sample three: beef fajita, carne guisada, and chicharron. The carne guisada was the best of the bunch, but it didn't really stand out as a great version. The filling consisted of semi-large chunks of tender stewed beef without a lot of spices and not much "gravy." I wouldn't order either the beef fajita or the chicharron taco again. The beef-fajita meat was not particularly tender or flavorful on its own. It tasted instead like the onion- and cilantro-heavy pico de gallo that was included at my request. The amount of chicharron filling was incredibly generous: The taco wouldn't even close. Unfortunately, this was a bland, very soft, "wet" version of the popular filling and the tortilla became soggy really quickly. All three tacos were served on store-bought flour tortillas, which must be standard since I wasn't asked which kind I wanted. No cilantro and onion came on the tacos, though small containers of red salsa were included with them. The very watery salsa spilled to the ground before I could sample it. The chicharron taco cost $1.25; the others were $1.75 each.
Apparently, the building used to be occupied by a Tastee Freeze; the current owners may also have called the place Alonzo's at one point. As far as I can tell, though, the current establishment is not related to the restaurant of the same name in San Antonio or other similarly-named joints around the country. For those who want to make only one stop for average fast-food-like burgers and Tex-Mex/Mexican, JJ's still fits the bill. On my visits, business was dominated by drive-up solo customers. There's an online menu here:
Note that some items are not on the official menu but are posted on hand-lettered signs in the front window. These include: "fish plate or fish special," flauta plates, chicken enchiladas with verde sauce, menudo on weekends, corn dogs, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Hours are 6:20 A.M. to 8 P.M. on Monday-Thursday and 6:20 A.M. to 9 P.M. on Friday-Saturday.
Oops, you're right! The good news would be something like the corn dogs or fresh lemonade. But who knows? The menudo might be good, too. And the carne guisada wasn't bad, though it wouldn't stand out if JJ's were simply a taquería. However, they certainly offer better Mexican food than most fast-food joints.
I had their cheese enchiladas, once. They were as gringo-mex as you can find in Austin with maybe the exception of Dart Bowl Cafe - cheap yellow cheese, salty chili on top, pungent rice, and runny refried beans. I keep meaning to go back and try out the rest of their menu.