Although the name is La Jalisiense (also spelled La Jalisciense), the menu at this gem of a grocery/restaurant includes dishes from beyond the state of Jalisco; indeed, customers eat from much of Mexico and the U.S. borderlands. But if the food is not regionally pure, it is gastronomically impeccable. That’s a fact one begins to suspect after placing an order and waiting enough time for the people in the kitchen actually to cook it. And it becomes a known truth once the food is tasted. This is vivid, fresh, from-scratch Mexican cooking, from house-made corn tortillas to hangover-cure menudo.
I love what is called the huarache, which, as any fan of Beach Boy songs can tell you, is a Mexican sandal. It is indeed flat like a sandal, something like an unfolded taco: a broad tortilla spread with a luxuriant bean paste and topped with your choice of meat. That can be steak, chicken, shrimp, tongue or — perhaps best of all — pork. Marinated in spice, rotisserie-cooked, and cut into shreds, nuggets, and tender little strips, this al pastor pork is a taste-buds joy. Atop the meat go lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and creamy chunks of cotijo cheese. One huarache, at well under $10, is a nice meal.
Gorditas are another way to go, available with the same meats, but in this case pocketed inside plump little rounds of tortilla thick enough to open up and sandwich a heap of ingredients. (Gordita in Mexican slang means fatso.)
Purists will like chili colorado, an uncomplicated plate of pork chunks sopped with the pepper sauce in which they have been cooked. The pepper sauce not only flavors the meat; it seems to tenderize it, too. Like many full dinner plates at La Jalisciense, the chili comes with glistening yellow rice and a spill of luxuriously lardy beans topped with partially melted cotija cheese. That fine rice and beans plate also accompanies magnificent fajitas, which are a harmonic medley of beautiful peppers, onions, and meat(s) of choice.
Strange (for a restaurant in South Carolina), no sweet tea is available; normal (for a Mexican restaurant), the beverage selection includes fruit juices, beers, and bright, refreshihng horchata. Made from rice with a starchy-sweet character, horchata is welcome balm for a pepper-savaged tongue.
Such a hospitable restaurant! If you aren’t a regular, waitresses take extra time to explain some of the more exotic items on the menu, and they seem genuinely happy when a customer lets them know just how good the food is.