Jose's Mexican Grill and Cantina
5:45 p.m. … School is back in session; just thinking of my two not-so-little ones away at college.
Afew years ago, I wrote about Jose's Mexican Grill and Cantina on Highway 7 south. It is always a nice experience, but I don't seem to get there often enough. Jose and his wife, Veronica, saw a need for their style of Mexican food on Malvern Avenue, and now I'm all in.
Jose's atmosphere is fun and festive with lots of color and a nice bar. I'm loving more restaurants in my `hood. If you're a Ram fan, you will want to horn-in on the Malvern Avenue location. This is the perfect spot for after practice, after game, or after-school dinners and hangouts. Jose's Mexican Grill and Cantina is also perfect for after golf and tennis soirees at the country club. You'll see lots of friends here, and the food is always great.
I could eat Mexican food a dozen meals per week and keep wanting more. Luckily, there are numerous styles of Mexican food in Hot Springs which spice things up — literally. Jose's certainly has its own style that is different from any other Mexican restaurant in the area. When you are seated here, you will be promptly served a red salsa and a green salsa. The red salsa has a distinct flavor, and is one of the more flavorful salsas in town, albeit without much heat. Also complimentary is their famous green salsa which has cucumbers blended in, and is fantastic! I bet others are green with envy over this salsa. If you like extra heat, just ask and they will deliver. Their chips are always warm and fresh.
Consider one of Jose's specialty drinks from the bar. Adrian Oseguera is the bar-master and has a passion for awesome flavors and presentations. My top three choices are the Cucumber Rita, the Piña Colada with Strawberries and their Three Berry Rita. The Cucumber Rita is definitely appealing. When I heard about this, I wasn't sure how it would taste, but it's yummy and gorgeous while very refreshing. The Piña Colada
is made with a homemade coconut cream base and has fresh strawberry puree around the edges. It's as delicious as it is beautiful. And the Three Berry Rita, made with fresh juices of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry is just as stunning. Adrian loves showing off his stuff, and you will love the results.
An obvious starter is the Queso Dip. Jose's is as good as you'll find in Hot Springs, but also consider asking for the Guacamole Mexicano. This is not on their menu, but always available. The Mexicano version is chunkier, and very fresh. This differs a lot from ordinary guacamole. With fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers, cilantro and lime juice, this is as good as it gets anywhere. Add extra lime juice and salt to preference, and your table will love this choice. A fabulous possibility, for either a shared appetizer or entree is the Mucho Quesadilla. This quesadilla is made on a garlic and herb tortilla and grilled with chicken or beef, mushrooms, grilled onions and peppers. I order mine with extra mushrooms.
The combination plates are very popular. My favorite is the C-2, which includes a beef taco, a cheese enchilada and a tamale. I order the beef taco with shredded beef, and pour the taco's filling (that includes lettuce and cheese) on top of the cheese enchilada. Jose's cheese enchiladas are superb; a savory blending of cheese in a corn tortilla, and covered with an outstanding cheese sauce. I add lots of the salsas, and I'm in heaven. Sometimes I order a side of jalapeños if I want extra zip. You will taco `bout this with your friends and Jose's will rice to the occasion. … this dish is always served with rice and beans.
The specials on the menu are just that — special. My favorite three are Jose's Favorite Shrimp, Carne Asada and Dos Amigos. Jose's Favorite Shrimp are plump shrimp, grilled with bacon and then Monterey Jack cheese on top. These shrimp are very tasty, and will melt in your mouth — a great selection.
The Carne Asada is extremely good. Jose's version is sliced and grilled beef with a tasty salsa. This is a bit spicy and you'll order it again.
The Dos Amigos is another popular entree. Grilled chicken and shrimp are cooked with onions and mushrooms then topped with Monterey Jack cheese. Dos Amigos is served with charro beans, guacamole and sour cream. Opt for substituting salsa for the cheese if you want a really healthy option.
Jose's Mexican Grill and Cantina has two top-notch desserts: the Chocolate Lava Cake and a homemade flan. The cake is served warm with ice cream, and the flan is one of the better textured flans that I've tasted.
Going to Jose's on 2215 Malvern Ave. is a comfortable, yet delightful experience. It's open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. They have a pleasant outdoor patio if the weather's nice, but I really like the indoor atmosphere. If you eat Mexican often, like me, you need to have Jose's on the front of your list. I'll see you there!
7:50 p.m. … My thoughts and prayers are with all children for a safe school year.
Above, a popular dish from Jose's Mexican Grill and Cantina: Jose's Favorite Shrimp.
Start your meal right with the Guacamole Mexicano, shown above, and one of Jose's specialty drinks, at left, the Three Berry Rita or the Cucumber Margartia.