Update late 2009: Jalapenos is open, and better than ever!
Update (2009029): Jalapeno's will reopen, since the Mythos restaurant wasn't working out. Due to open in October 2009.
Update (20080718): Jalapeno's has closed.
I've been known to moan and whine about the lack of authentic Mexican restaurants in New Jersey...and the rest of the country for that matter. Aside from taquerias in some areas with a big Mexican population, you're not going to find much in the way of Mexican or even Southwestern flavors in New Jersey. Jose Tejas and any place with the same menu do not count. That includes you, Chili's, that "Fresh Mex" place, Don Pablo's, any rustic looking place with "Roadhouse" in the name, and, of course, all of you local places that serve cheddar cheese-laden crap...you know who you are.
Here's my rant, which has gone through my head more than I can remember and out of my mouth more times than those within earshot cared to hear. The menus at these restaurants contain basically the same deal: tacos, burritos, nachos, sizzling platters of fajitas, shredded lettuce, unripe tomatoes, guacamole that comes out of a bag, sour cream, some version of chimichanga, white meat chicken everywhere, a token salmon dish, refried beans, rice. It's the all-too-typical case of you and me being able to make anything these restaurants offer with food from cans (yes, I know Chevy's has "no cans" in the kitchen, but they might as well), bags, and with the ingredients from even the most uninteresting white bread supermarket, although you'd very rarely want to.
And don't get me started on the margaritas these places make, which despite your not getting me started, I will right now. I'm sure that margaritas are one of the most popular cocktails served in the US, and there's nothing wrong with people sucking down cheap sweetened tequila and high fructose corn syrup mixers. It's just that I have a preference for non-gloppy-sweet margaritas, made with nothing but Tequila (100% Blue Agave), a non-crap orange liqueur, and fresh lime juice (and maybe a bit of simple syrup or OJ. Maybe). Let me stress again: FRESH LIME JUICE. And no, fresh lime juice can't be substituted with Rose's neon green high fructose corn syrup water stuff. That's not lime juice. So restaurants, please don't list "lime juice" on your drink menu if you actually mean "Rose's neon green high fructose corn syrup water stuff." That just throws me all the hell off. Or, God forbid, that sour mix stuff that comes out of the gun. Oh Jesus no.
And try to ask a bartender to make a margarita "without sweet and sour mix or Rose's"!??! You'll likely get a look of confusion and horror, a look of horror matched only by the look of horror on my face when I get a mouth full of synthetic sugar product when I'm actually expecting the magical combination of a Reposado, Cointreau, and lime juice.
Show me a place in New Jersey that makes a margarita like God intended it and I'll be on the road in minutes. Englewood's Mama Mexico? Nein. Bloomfield's Senoritas? Nicht. Norwood's Jose O'Reilly's? Nuh-uh. In fact the best margarita that I've had in New Jersey was at Ridgewood's multi-level meat market Blend, of all places. And this was due probably entirely to the excellent bartender Steve, with whom I had an educational discussion on and tasting of tequilas a while back. I'm not even sure if Steve still works there, but if you're there, and he does, have him make you a margarita with fresh lime juice. Accept no less.
But that's not why I called you to this meeting today.