Last weekend I was in Charlottesville, VA for a wedding, and decided to drive home on Route 81 through western VA because I had this crazy idea that driving within fifty miles of our nation’s capital on the ten-year anniversary of our country’s biggest terrorist attack might not be wise. I was spectacularly hungry as a result of some extremely poor alcohol-related choices the night before, the kind of choices that ended in vomiting approximately my body weight, and I really did not want to eat fried crap. That’s a challenge on any road trip, let alone one that is primarily traveling through the middle of fucking nowhere. So when I saw some vaguely interesting and numerous signs with food establishments on them, at least one of which looked reasonably un-shit-like, pointing towards New Market, VA, I hopped off the highway and started exploring.
I have this vague and ill-formed theory around ethnic restaurants in locations that don’t have high populations of that ethnicity, and while I’ve never fully articulated it before I feel like I’ve sort of aimlessly been following it for years with some success. The theory is basically that if you come across an ethnic restaurant in an area that isn’t known for high numbers of that ethnic group, it’s probably a pretty good restaurant. It’s almost certainly not serving an established local desire for that food, there’s probably not enough members of that ethnic population to support inferior food, and since the restaurant is trying to build desire for its food and serve a population without a lot of culinary options, it’s gotta be pretty good. So if you’re in a random location – like New Market, VA – and you come across an incongruous restaurant – like a Mexican restaurant – it is probably not only good, but some of the best food you’ll eat in the area. This is how I wound up at Jalisco’s, devouring the best burrito of my life.
I’m not gonna say it was a perfect situation. I asked for something I could eat with my hand while I drive and was given a fajita burrito covered in melted cheese. But it came out in under five minutes after my order was taken, the charmingly flirty manager got my order otherwise perfect, and accommodated my picky ass for a not-too-sweet drink. So my complaints are pretty much nonexistent, especially in the face of that burrito which let me tell you about it. Steak: not too tough, not too tender, insanely juicy and flavorful. Peppers and onions: caramelized to perfection, even more insanely flavorful. So many juices intermingling, so much high-level wonderfulness. Here’s the home run, though: the whole burrito was covered in a liquid melted cheese sauce so melty and thin that it looked more like a cream sauce than a cheese sauce. (No, I have no idea what kind of cheese it was, and I really want to know.) The real genius of this burrito lies in the mixing of its juices with the cheese sauce. Guys, I cannot even begin. And if this burrito (burritos being as American, at this point, as pizza or chicken parmesan) is so good, I cannot imagine how outstanding their actual real live Mexican food must be.
I am told by Virginian sources that Jalisco’s is actually a western Virginia mini-Mexican chain, which I confirmed by looking at the copy of the menu I kidnapped. It has locations in Front Royal, New Market, Harrisonburg, Strasburg, and Verona. So you have five chances to eat delicious Mexican food in western VA! And you really should. Tell Eddie the manager that the girl in pink from New Jersey who he’s sad he’ll never see again sent you.