Over a basket of tortilla chips at Don Jose’s Grill, a friend told me all she expects of a Tex-Mex restaurant is that the food be “plentiful and inexpensive.”
I’ll call this the “cheesy and greasy” theory of Mexican food.
There’s nothing wrong with it from a taste perspective. However, your cardiologist might take issue with it.
Judging by the number of local restaurants that serve large plates of food covered in cheese and spicy sauces, this style has plenty of fans.
One of the newest purveyors of this style of Tex-Mex is Don Jose’s Grill, a Baton Rouge outpost of a Kenner restaurant that opened this year on College Drive location, replacing a Chinese buffet.
Little has changed in terms of ambience at the strip mall location. A fountain in the Chinese restaurant was converted to an Aztec temple, and the decor falls in line with most American Mexican restaurants. But the chairs immediately caught our attention. Each one is decorated with brass brads and embroidered with the Don Jose’s Grill logo, and the back is stitched with a scene from dry, dusty northern Mexican towns.
If there’s a trend in the restaurant scene, the Perkins Overpass area no doubt has it covered.
After easing into those ostentatious chairs, my friend and I ordered an appetizer, chile con queso blended with refried beans ($5.99). We should have stuck with the queso solo. The beans were tepid and transformed the dip into a sludgy mess.
Friends and online reviews raved about the grilled entrees at Don Jose’s, so I tried one of the more innovative dishes, the alambres ($14.75), a bowl of thinly sliced fajitas and grilled shrimp with melted cheese. On the side was a bowl of pinto beans flavored with large chunks of pork.
The cheese and grease overwhelmed the flavors of the grilled fajitas and the shrimp. Too rich for me, I only finished one-quarter of the dish before turning my attention to the beans. Simple and flavorful, they satisfied in a way that the gooey main course could not.
Our other entree, the enchilada dinner ($9.99), met expectations. The shredded chicken enchilada was packed with protein and doused with a spicy — but not oppressively hot — sauce. The cheese enchilada was covered with their velvety queso blanco. Far from an afterthought, the rice served on the side was also well seasoned.
Don Jose’s might be a great place to load up on enchiladas and margaritas with friends. Plenty of diners were having a great time over drinks and chips and queso.
But some dishes, especially the alambres I tried, go a little too far with the cheese and grease.
Don Jose’s Grill
3132 College Drive, Baton Rouge
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
INFO: Call (225) 330-4878 or visit facebook.com/donjosesgrillbr.
PROS: Chile con queso; enchiladas.
CONS: Bean and cheese dip; too much grease on some entrees.