Have I ever told you that I like Mexican food? Jeff and I were mulling over where to go today for lunch and we just couldn’t decide on a place that worked for both of us.
I suggested Italian and Jeff reminded my of his low carb diet. I mentioned a Soul Food restaurant that I had found in Fishers and Jeff reminded me that we had just recently reviewed a place near there. Then I mentioned Westfield, because we have yet to review a restaurant there, and we got to discussing what restaurants were located there. One of us mentioned Big Hoffa’s BBQ, but we decided against it because we just recently reviewed some BBQ. One of us mentioned Sushi (probably me) but I feel a little ambivalent about fish currently because of the Fukoshima Reactor leak in Japan causing all the Tuna in the Pacific Ocean to glow.
Finally we hit on Mexican and since it had been awhile since we’d reviewed a Mexican joint we had a winner. I think I have also mentioned before that Mexican food seems to always be a style of food everyone can agree on, and here’s the proof of it!
We decided to review El Jaripeo in Westfield. El Jaripeo is an Indianapolis chain owned by the same family and related to the local El Rodeo chain of restaurants as well. I remember the first El Jaripeo restaurant opening off of East Washington Street in Indianapolis. That store was my family’s first choice for family gatherings and we even held my wedding rehearsal dinner there! Although my folks are no longer with us, my siblings and our families still meet from time to time at their new store; which is next to Kroger’s, across East Washington Street from the old location, and next to the discount movie theater.
Lots of earth tones and terrazzo tile, roofed booths lend the place an old west theme. The cantina with saloon doors just off to the side from the main dining area enhance that theme.
Over all the feeling is welcoming and if you want a little privacy, the booths easily give you that feeling. If you need a dining area separate from the main dining area there is a smaller dining room towards the rear of the restaurant that can easily be roped off.
Service was really good. There was an adequate number of servers to handle the crowd and as we walked in we were quickly greeted and led to a table. Chips and two different types of salsa, which we’ll get to a bit later, were brought out along with menus and our drink orders were taken immediately.
Our waiter was very solicitous. He checked on our drinks often and cleared our plates quickly. We didn’t have to wait long for anything and that included the check at the end of the meal.
The restaurant looks to be newly or nearly newly remodeled. Everything was well maintained and sanitary. The bathroom was clean and pleasant smelling. What I could see of the kitchen was clean and I saw nothing that would give me a reason to question the freshness or the quality of the food.
OK… Now for the most important part of the review, the FOOD! Like I said earlier, I have been visiting the El Jaripeo restaurant on the East Side of Indy for nearly 20 years, and I really enjoy the food. Considering that I have only been to this particular location once or twice before in the nearly 13 years I have lived in Hamilton County; however, I will treat this review like most every other I have done by describing the dishes we actually ordered.
Since chips and salsa are the first thing served to a customer in each and every Mexican restaurant I have ever been to, let’s start there. El Jaripeo served us two different types of salsa, one was red and the other was white. The red was tomato based of course, and was well put together. The sauce was thick with nice chunks of tomato, bits of a mild pepper, a little onion, cilantro, and some garlic. The combination was very tasty. The white sauce seemed to be based on a dressing similar to Miracle Whip. There were some other flavors in there as well including red pepper. Although it too had a pleasant flavor, I much prefer the red salsa. The chips were fresh, thin, and crisp. By themselves they were lightly salty and a little sweet. I’d say the chips were just as good as those I get at El Camino Real (see our review on this restaurant).
As I was munching on the chips and salsa (Jeff’s on a low carb diet remember?), we perused the menu. Jeff, trying to recover from a weekend full of junk food debauchery and booze at the University of Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game, decided to go for the Lunch Fajitas, beef. I ordered the Chili Rellenos and Carnitas.
When our orders arrived, Jeff was surprised that his Lunch Fajita did not come out on a sizzling, cast-iron skillet. With the first bite of his fajita; however, he completely forgot about the skillet. The beef was extremely flavorful with the edges pleasantly crisped and he also couldn’t get over how flavorful the refried beans were. I had a taste of his fajita meat and it was everything he described.
Now on to my order. For those of you that do not know what Chili Rellenos are, I should explain that there are two styles. One style is a fresh poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, and sometimes ground meat, battered, fried, and served with a red sauce on top. The other style consists of sliced roasted poblano peppers mixed with ground beef and covered with a boat load of gooey, melted cheese. El Jaripeo serves the latter and they are excellent. The beef is well seasoned, the roasted poblano adds a grassy flavor, and what is there not to love about melted queso blanco? A word of caution though, poblano peppers are normally extremely mild with no bite whatsoever. Once in a great while; however, you’ll get a spicy one and if you aren’t used to a little heat, you may not be up to eating it. Usually a restaurant will be willing to replace it, but sometimes not. I think of it as a game of Mexican roulette!
When testing a Mexican restaurant for the first time I generally order Carnitas, which is seasoned roast pork with sautéed onions. The primary reason I order Carnitas is when done right they are absolutely delicious. More importantly though, as good as they are, they aren’t often ordered. So if the Carnitas are moist, tender, and delicious, you can be pretty sure the rest of the menu will be well done as well. The Carnitas at El Jaripeo, lived up to my expectations. They were fork tender, and every bite was a little bit of porky heaven in my mouth. I should mention that they are served here with flour tortillas; however, for a more authentic experience order them with soft corn tortillas. As for the accompanying refried beans and Spanish rice, they are definitely superior to most Mexican joints I have visited over the years.
I should also mention that Jeff and his wife returned to El Jaripeo on Jeff’s diet cheat day so that he could eat as many carbs as he wanted. They had a shrimp burrito and a shrimp quesadilla. They both decided El Jaripeo is now their “go- to” Mexican restaurant and I can’t say I blame them.
The Juicy Bits
Reasonably priced, fresh food with superior flavors makes El Jaripeo in Westfield a deserving namesake of the original restaurant located on East Washington Street in Indianapolis. If you are located in Hamilton County and are a fan of Mexican food, you will find it well worth your while to give this restaurant a visit.
In summary: Order the Carnitas, make sure you order them with maize tortillas instead of the flour ones and ¡Provecho!
3020 Indiana 32
Westfield, IN 46074
Tel: (317) 867-1562
Website: http://www.eljaripeorestaurant.com/ (technically the east side Indy location)
Hours: Monday- Thursday (11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.), Friday – Saturday (11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.), Sunday (11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.)