Tacos Jalisco Grill & Cantina seems to be one of Lemmon Valley’s best kept secrets. The Mexican eatery features Mexican and Mexican American classics as well as impressive specialties that include molcajetes, goblets of seafood, birria, enchiladas enmoladas and many more.
Tidbits about Tacos Jalisco Grill & Cantina
When my wife and I arrived for lunch on a Sunday afternoon, the medium-sized restaurant was nearly full. Despite the packed house, the staff sat us immediately. Our server promptly brought us chips, salsa and waters.
While researching the restaurant, I learned that their Lemmon Valley location is their second restaurant. They founded the original, Taco’s Jalisco, in Truckee in 1994. The Lemmon Valley location started operating in 2014. The Yelp bio goes on to say that they make all their salsas from scratch, and that their recipes span two generations.
Because the restaurant was so busy, I declined to solicit an interview.
In addition to salsas, the restaurant specializes in dishes that use molcajetes. The molcajete is a porous mortar and it’s accompanied by a temolote, a porous pestle. The tools date back thousands of years to pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures. Today, they are used to grind spices and to prepare salsas and guacamoles. It’s also common to serve food in molcajetes. Because molcajetes are traditionally made from vesicular basalt, they have a high thermal mass that is ideal for keeping food hot.
I attest to the molcajete’s ability to retain heat. My wife and I enjoyed our meal over the span of about thirty minutes, and at the conclusion of our meal the contents of our molcajete were still piping hot.
Generous portions, complex flavors and fresh ingredients
Our meal started with complimentary chips and salsa. The chips were tasty, but they could have used some salt. The salsa was a chunky red that seemed to include roasted tomatoes, onions, chilies and cilantro. It had a nice kick, and we both enjoyed it. Also available at the table were two house-made salsas in squeeze bottles. One was an arbol salsa and one was a habanero. The arbol salsa tasted of citrus, salt, heat and roasted chilies. The habanero had a nice acidity and high heat.
We decided to order the Queso Fundido with chorizo for $10.98, “La Mega” seafood cocktail for $19.99 and the Molcajete “Armadillo” for $19.99. All our food arrived about 15 minutes after we ordered. The speed and service were remarkable.
The molten cheese dip was fantastic. They served it to us bubbling hot. The cheese seemed to be melted Oaxaca, and it was mildly flavored. The stretch on the cheese was especially satisfying. The grilled onions, poblano peppers and chorizo added great flavor. I’d happily order this appetizer again.
Next was La Mega. The seafood cocktail included surimi, clams, oysters, octopus, shrimp, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, onions and half an avocado. They served it with small tostadas and crackers upon request. The photo doesn’t really do this dish justice. The photo might have you believe that the restaurant skimps on the seafood; this is definitely not the case. Because the goblet is so large, the liquid obscures 4+ servings of delicious seafood.
The shrimp, clams, octopus and surimi all had the right amounts of chew and give. Historically, oysters are not my favorite, but I loved them in this dish. They were partly sweet, partly briny, and they didn’t have any grit or other off-putting qualities. Although the seafood was tasty forked right out of the glass, my wife and I both agreed that seafood tostadas were the way to go. The lime and hot sauces elevated the already great seafood.
Last up was the Molcajete Armadillo. The presentation was dramatic and attractive with the contents steaming and bubbling. It was served with pretty tasty rice, beans and tortillas. According to the menu, this is the first molcajete the restaurant offered. The volcanic basin included shrimp, pork, beef and cactus in a thick red sauce. The dish offered generous amounts of all the toothsome, tender proteins. The menu specifies that the cactus slices are grilled, but they tasted pickled to me. The sauce was wonderfully savory, spicy and complex. The whole thing came together almost like a stew. We both loved this one, and we’re eager to try another variety.
Our three menu selections could have easily sated five people. Every member of the staff was friendly and attentive. The décor is lively and welcoming. The depths of Lemmon Valley may seem distant to some, but I think the trip is well worth the drive.
Tacos Jalisco Grill & Cantina Details
Visit Tacos Jalisco Grill & Cantina at 9105 Lemmon Dr., Reno, NV 89506. They are open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. They are open on New Years Eve from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are closed New Years Day. Call them at 775-737-9905.