Friday, September 18, 2009

Burp-n-Jack-n-Grill

This Spring my wife and I were wandering the streets of a small Italian beach town and stopped to eat at some random bistro-bar. After we ordered, we struck up a conversation with the owner. The talk eventually turned to food, and he began to describe to us, with a straight face and in broken English, that the way to tell if one has eaten good food is by the taste and quality of one’s burps. My wife about did a spit take, but I was right there with him. After eating McDonalds, he went on to elaborate, the burp tastes horrible. Disgusting. On the other hand, he pointed out, after eating his brilliant and fresh pesto with his homemade pasta, all our burps would be quite tasty. He actually guaranteed that any burping we did would be delicious.


My wife gets a little (a lot really) disgusted when I burp, or talk about burping, or burp letters of the alphabet. But really, we all burp and well, that Italian was so right. Now back in Denver, I just ate at Jack-n-Grill, and hours later I can say that my burps are tasting fine. And the New Mexican cuisine served here, as well as the enormous portions, are very conducive to the burp.


New Mexican cuisine is quite a bit different than the Central and Southern traditional Mexican food I know. But don't think that just because it is a newer cuisine that it doesn't have tradition, it does.  Also, let's be clear that New Mexican food is distinct from (and better than, in my opinion) Tex-Mex. And then both of those styles are different from the places that just bastardize it all with bland American interpretations of "Mexican" food. The ingredients for all these varieties are often very similar but the final products are unique. It gets very confusing. Let me just tell you what we ate.


We decided to share a few plates and start with what to me is the most classic of all New Mexican dishes and my personal favorite: the Frito pie. (If you don't know what a Frito pie is check into an earlier post of mine--then hurry to Jack-n-Grill to get one).  All the Frito pies I've eaten in the past have been from a roadside stand, served in little paper baskets. I guess when you put it on a restaurant menu, you quadruple the size and throw in a scoop of guacamole for good measure. It was a literal mountain of Fritos hidden under the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, shredded cheese and chile. If there is a Frito pie in heaven (don't worry, there is), this is how big it would be. Check out how I stuck a fork in it and the tines were completely buried:


The other amazing thing is that the fork stands unsupported

We also ordered a "half-bowl" bowl of green chile. This was actually enough for a hungry family of four. I think for the full bowl they take you back to the kitchen, throw you into a pool of it and you have to eat your way out. It too, like the Frito pie, was excellent. Actually for me, it is one of better green chile bowls in Denver. Spicy. Sweaty spicy, yet not overpowering and without killing the taste. 


Another thing that is good: gorditas. Now, to my Mexicanized palate, gorditas are supposed to be thick corn tortillas, fried in oil and then split open and stuffed with any number of fillings. These too were fried then stuffed, but in a wheat, flour-based dough (a sopapilla) instead of corn. My friend, who is a Chicano studies professor, gave me a mini-lecture on the staple crops of New Mexico (wheat) versus Mexico (corn) and how they helped form the regional cuisines. Ahh,  the age-old debate: flour versus corn tortilla.  I nod my head and take in this useful knowledge. "Another important point to consider", I add, while intellectually stroking my chin, "is that they are both stuffed and fried."

And my final piece of wisdom regarding Jack and his grill is that you also must try the carne adovada. You can have it stuffed into a gordita with potatoes or beans. You can have it folded in a taco or rolled in a burrito. You can order a insanely huge platter of it. But you really should try it. Carne adovada, or adobada (Mexican spelling), literally means marinated meat. But more specifically and deliciously, it is pork marinated in a sweet yet spicy red chile sauce. The exact recipes vary, and crossing the border south will, once again, change the dish quite a bit. I like Mexican adobada a lot, but I would go back for Jack's New Mexican adovada. 


In conclusion we had a great meal at Jack-n-Grill. I want to go back to compare and contrast more New Mexican and Mexican dishes like the posole, tacos and enchiladas. I guess Jack n Grill is famous now because that one crazy Travel Channel guy went there and was like the umpteenth person to eat a 7-pound breakfast burrito. Woo-hoo. Way to go, guy. I wonder if two hours later his vomit tasted as good as my burps?  


Do you like huge portions of good food? Go to Jack-n-Grill on Federal and 25th. 
Jack-n-Grill on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Jack-n-Grill has absolutely THE BEST green chile in Denver, hands down. The service over the years has been mediocre at best, although it seems to be improving, slowly but surely.
    Best,
    Ashleigh

    ReplyDelete

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