Unfortunate circumstances surrounding my debit card (and temporary lack thereof) brought me back to the food wasteland that is my area of New Jersey for the weekend. Apparently all I had to do was activate it via the phone (why couldn’t I have done this back in the city?), but I figured I would stay for the entire weekend as, while it is dull down here, it’s also very relaxing. The last time I went home I wrote up a rousing post about the wonders of Wawa, so this time I didn’t really have much of a choice but to transition in the world of reasonably priced Mexican food.
Jose’s was my family’s go to Mexican staple after all of us got sick (repeatedly) from the local tex-mex place called Surf Taco, which apparently has extended its burrito-shaped tentacles further than the lovely Garden State as everyone and their friggin brother knows about it now. Someone in one of my classes this semester has a sticker for the place on her laptop, and I think she’s from California. No matter, as the faux-Mexican fare offered up by the latter pales in comparison to the more authentic atmosphere and food of the former. If you’re like me and had so many Chicken Caesar Salad “burritos” in your life that you’ll probably lash out and kill the next person who tries to serve you one, you’ll most likely agree.
No matter what you end up getting, each meal begins with a complimentary basket of homemade chips and pico de gallo salsa. You get a ridiculous amount (the picture was after we ate through most of them), and they’re constantly warm, crisp, and flavorful. The pico de gallo is nothing short of addictive, the best part being the tomatoes. Somehow consistently fresh and exceptionally juicy, I could eat them by the handful all day long. This is coming from a person who usually can’t stomach tomatoes in their raw form.
I usually get the carne asada platter or the chiles rellenos, but I wasn’t particularly hungry this time around, so I opted for something that I presumed would be a bit less hearty. Whoops. These quesadillas ($8.95) were packed to the gills with chicken and cheese and slathered with a ton of mole sauce. Needless to say, I ended up taking most of it home and eating it the next day.
The tortillas themselves were reasonably fresh and easy to cut through, though the taste and texture brought to mind the generic supermarket-brand stuff more than something fresh off of the conveyor belt at the tortilla factory. The chicken was a bit dry, made better with a reasonable amount of gooey monterey jack cheese, but generally unremarkable. The saving grace of the whole dish was the spicy mole sauce, made with a large amount of peppers and providing a much needed kick to an otherwise “meh” entree. I’ve certainly had better. The rice and beans were fairly inconsequential as well. Nothing worth writing home about.
I think the key to places like this is to stray away from the more Americanized dishes and pick and choose from the Mexican staples. While this was a lackluster meal (though by no means awful), i’ve had some great dishes here in the past and I’ll certainly be back. While the food is fairly poor compared to the Mexican restaurants in New York City (though that’s really not saying much), for the price and the area you could do a lot worse than Jose’s. Then again, it’s not like you have many other options to begin with.
Jose’s Mexican Restaurant / 101 Route 71 (at Jersey Ave) Spring Lake Heights, NJ / All Major Cards / (732) 974-8080 (no website)