El Jaripeo Restaurant
1259 South Redwood Road
3.5 stars out of 5
Prepare yourself for a jaripeo (rodeo) of delicious specialties from Mexico. What you find at El Jaripeo is different from most other Mexican restaurants around Salt Lake City. First, you need to realize that the standard fare you might be tempted to order from other joints is probably not going to be the specialty of the house. Printed in cool new green text on the front is Comida Oaxaqueña. So after a bit of spanish spelling gymnastics, it’s certain that the specialties of the house come from the city and state of Oaxaca, a beautiful part of Mexico with its own special brand of cuisine unlike the rest of Mexico.
El Jaripeo’s building is one with a history of Mexican restaurants. Most recently it was called Guelaguetza which was also a restaurant which served up Oaxacan delicacies. While many of the menu items have remained the same, some of them have changed. When I asked, I was also told that the owners are completely new but they are also from Oaxaca and I was told that the same menu items which I had previously tried at Guelaguetza would taste differently now given the difference in recipes. Given the difference in recipes, Noyen and I asked for recommendations of their best items. I ordered the Empanadas with mole amarillo and Noyen got the Burrito Zapoteco with grilled cactus leaves.
Before I talk about how my empanada was, it’s important to talk about a few of the items that you can get here. First of all, the horchata (here’s a picture of Noyen’s) is homemade with nuts and melons mixed in. It’s a delicious treat and a nice change from the horchata from most restaurants and comes from a fountain. On the topic of drinks, you can also get Champurrado here. This drink is not for everybody as it’s very thick drink typically mixed with hominy flour. I usually don’t like thick drinks like this one (it’s practically a meal) but after being dared to drink it by my students at the Guadalupe School, I have developed a taste for it. Also for the adventurous types you can actually order chapulines here (grasshoppers are a delicacy and popular in Oaxaca). Another dish I have tried before is the Nopal Zapateco which is a dish of grilled cactus, which I and some co-workers have found to be delicious.
Now Oaxaca is known as the “land of seven moles” and there are several to choose from at El Jaripeo. After asking our waiter, I decided on trying the empanada with mole amarillo. Most mole amarillos I have tried have been very hot and flavorful but this one was not very hot at all. The flavor was good, but not overpowering. Still, I would have liked a bit more interesting flavor in my mole. Noyen’s mole negro on his burrito was delicious. I would say that while it is not as good as Red Iguana, it’s a close second. The homemade tortillas were delicious. Very warm and a nice amount of toasting to them. Also on sale at the restaurant are tortillas and “pasta de mole negro” so you can take some stuff home and have your own little festival de moles at home.
The service was excellent and much improved over the slow and sometimes frustrating service we had previously grown accustomed to with Guelaguetza. Our waiter was very polite and made great recommendations. He’s also a fan of metal which I personally appreciate. After reading about the previous incarnation of El Jaripeo (3500 S) on another blog, I read about a waiter who liked Slayer shirts. So I asked him if he was the guy at the other location who liked Slayer. He said that it could easily been him and he lifted up his shirt to reveal a pretty damn cool Slayer shirt underneath. So you will be in good hands.
Overall, the food was not as great as I have tasted in other restaurants and could be less dry and more flavorful. However, there are not many other restaurants in town which serve up some of these delicacies from Oaxaca so I would definitely recommend it. Make sure to leave comments if you do try it out and let us know what you think.
More reviews to come next week…