Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Blaze of Glory, Jarro Cafe's salsas are HOT!!!...

With every order at Jarro Cafe, they bring you five different salsas and some lime quarters in six brightly colored bowls arranged on a condiment tray. The "Mayan" salsa is made of chopped purple onions flecked with Mexican oregano and chile powder and moistened with lime juice. There's an oily, brick-red ointment that looks like Asian chile paste, but it's actually ground chile arbol sweetened with a little sugar and mixed with oil. The deep green sauce tastes like chopped jalapeƱos and cilantro in vinegar. Then there's a bright orange sauce made with lots of pureed red chiles. And last, but by no means least, there's a neon-green salsa. After tasting them individually, we decide that the neon-green one is made with pureed tomatillos and serranos, and it's the one most likely to rip out your tonsils.

Francis ladles the green stuff over his tacos al pastor, which are made with pork slices that have been slow-roasted with pineapple and then crisped on a griddle. Francis declares them the best he's had in Houston. All the tacos here are served Mexican-style, on two fresh corn tortillas that have been lightly griddle-fried until they're flexible but not crisp.

We also sample the beef-and-mushroom tacos, which are fabulously flavored with a little bacon, and the beef-and-chorizo tacos, which are a nice combo of thin steak slices and crumbly sausage with lots of orange grease. The carnitas tacos are tasty, but the pork doesn't have any of the crispy bits you get in Mexican meat market-style carnitas.

Oddly, there's a Jarro Cafe trailer parked in front of the restaurant that seems to do more business than the restaurant itself. For many years, the restaurant's owner sold tacos out of the trailer, which was then located in a shopping-center parking lot a little farther north up Gessner. Unwilling to pay rent for a trailer space in somebody else's parking lot after he opened his restaurant, he parked the trailer out front as a sort of sign. But the trailer's legions of fans steadfastly refuse to go inside and sit down. They eat standing up out front in the parking lot. They're doing a great job of advertising the quality of the tacos, however. You can't drive by the restaurant without noticing the crowds.

Jarro Cafe
Details: Chilaquiles: $5.75
Egg tacos: $2.50
Tacos with beef and chorizo: $3.75
Tacos al pastor: $3.75
Where: 1521 Gessner, 713-827-0373. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Speaking of salsas. I recently went to Ostioneria Arandas at Southmore and Richey and had their seafood soup and free beer. Yes, if you ask you get a free beer. They are in the dry part of Pasadena so they can't sell it. They have a purple onion and habernero pepper salsa served with fried tostas every meal. Good but hot. Among their best things are fried fish with garlic. Their seafood tostadas are the best buy, same as their seafood cocktails without the glass. Authentic cheap Mexican - more expensive here in the states.

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