Las Jalapenos3000 Grand Ave
Fort Smith, AR 72901-3112
It’s easy to take enchiladas for granted. They’re always there, reliably and unexcitingly waiting to be selected from the menu of any Mexican restaurant worth its margarita salt. People never say, “I’m having enchiladas!” but usually, “I’ll just have the enchiladas.” They aren’t an adventurous food. Still, Fort Smith Eats is a fan of good enchiladas. Being unapologetic cheese fans, we’re usually happy with just plain cheese enchiladas. Nothing against beef or chicken, but cheese is generally where it’s at.
That’s because it’s hard to really screw up a cheese enchilada. Rolled-up tortilla. Melty cheese. Sauce. It takes a lot of work to not get that right. It’s like the PBJ of the Mexican restaurant world. Beef enchiladas can be too bland or greasy, and chicken enchiladas not covered in a spicy verde sauce or creamy sour cream sauce are typically pretty disappointing.
We’d been to Los Jalapenos on Grand Avenue just once before. It was okay. Typical rice and beans and Mexican combo dinner place. But Mexican Monday was approaching, and it had been probably over two years since the last visit, so we ventured back to the place with the grinning, shades-wearing pepper on its sign.
A quick look at the menu. $4.95 combo lunches galore. Nah. Something more inspiring. Mmm. Enchiladas Supremas, beef, chicken and cheese variety, served with rice and beans. The picture on the menu looked colorful. And, we figured, if a place can’t do enchiladas right, why bother with anything else? We’d give ‘em a go.
The place isn’t fancy by any means. Good mix of Hispanics and gringos in there, always a good sign. No music, but several flat-screen TVs all tuned to Spanish-language talk shows. This giant soccer trophy and the competing-for-attention carpet sweeper next to it amused us:
Chips and salsa were fine. Warm chips, zesty sauce, but nothing you’re going to think about afterwards unless you happen to find yourself writing an anonymous blog posting about them. (Whee!)
About two minutes after ordering comes the entrée. And Fort Smith Eats’ first thought? “RED.”
The extent to which you love or hate these enchiladas is going to depend heavily on how much you like paprika. We’re not the sort of food critics that can deconstruct a sauce’s ingredients based on a single taste (hello, “Top Chef!”). But it doesn’t take a New York Times food critic’s palate to detect the paprika. For our money, it worked. Really worked. Despite the picture’s vibrant colors, we were expecting the palid brown-orange “red sauce” so many Mexi joints serve up. This red sauce: red. Better yet, the paprika was just the launching point for so many other subtle flavors that made themselves known when we stopped focusing on the paprika. The beef was good, the shredded chicken great, and the cheese…? Oh, we love the cheese.
Even better the accoutrements of sour cream, guac and pico de gallo were not just Mexican flag-colored garnish. They really worked with the enchiladas and the paprika-heavy sauce. Particularly the pico. That pico de gallo musta been picked fresh from the pico tree right before it hit the table, because there wasn’t a bland flavor in the mix.
Is anything else on the Los Jalapenos menu worth your time? Couldn’t tell you. But someday we will. Because we’ll be back.
Though we’re gonna have a hard time talking ourselves into ordering anything different.