Of Tex-Mex in Jackson

There are only so many ways that a Tex-Mex place can distinguish itself because people go to them knowing exactly what to expect.

1. Free chips and salsa as soon as you sit down. And the salsa is typically very pureed. One’s restaurant might distinguish itself by offering a particularly smoky or cilantro heavy salsa. This is rare. The texture is always the same. Both chips and salsa are all you care to eat.

2. Frozen margaritas, sometimes 2 for 1. When they’re 2 for 1, they’re often watered down.

3. A portion of the menu devoted to “combo meals,” all of which are some combination of flour tortillas, cheese and meat. The tortillas might be fried. The meat might be grilled. The cheese might be “cheese sauce,” but you can get a huge number of quickly prepared, salty, filling items out of those three ingredients. And you can extend them by serving them with rice and beans.

4. TVs tuned to sports, but muted so that you can hear the Spanish language (often Mexican) music.

5. People ordering fajitas. People love fajitas. They’re a spectacle. They smell delicious. And everybody in the restaurant knows you’re getting fajitas because they’re loud and big and the person carrying them moves fast. Again, same combination: meat, tortillas, cheese, add a couple of vegetables and there you go.

By far the most exciting thing for me to find on a Tex-Mex restaurant’s menu is a section exclusively devoted to tacos. I don’t mean the crunch fried shell and ground beef things that you used to eat with pineapple and english peas in the school cafeteria. I mean three corn tortilla wrapped, meat filled bundles of deliciousness covered with tin foil and accompanied by onions, cilantro, and lime wedges. You don’t find these often because (see 1-5 above), they’re not what people expect at a Tex-Mex restaurant. If you want tacos like this, you generally have to go to a taqueria or, if you’re lucky enough, you can go to a food truck.

Jackson’s best taquerias will be the subject of a later post.

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  • John Michael  On February 8, 2012 at 2:42 am

    There is a serious omission here: fresh, homemade flour tortillas. When a Tex-Mex joint makes its own tortillas in house, it totally changes the game. (e.g., Armadillo Grill, Carborro and Ninfa’s, Baton Rouge.)

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