If I’m being totally honest, I hadn’t tried Hot Jalapeño because I thought the logo of a jolly pepper with a sombrero looked slightly less authentic than other Mexican spots in the neighborhood. And because I’ve grown rather loyal to other Spanish Harlem restaurants. But when I found out they set up an ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos, I decided it was the perfect time to branch out.
Before talking about the food, I gotta talk about the space. When they asked if we wanted to eat in or outside, we said outside because, you know, COVID. They set up some nice seating in the street, like most restaurants, so as not to lose business when indoor dining is restricted. But then he said “great the back patio is open, follow me.” Back patio? What? Turns out the restaurant has a great [large] secret patio space. It’s a mini oasis in the city. This would be reason enough to eat here. Also, I love how the concrete has bottles crushed into the borders.
My beau ordered a cecina (salt-cured beef) quesadilla that came with a lovely little salad. He really enjoyed it, I think because it sat somewhere between the rustic, super authentic [holy grail] quesadillas from Quesadillas Doña Maty and a more ubiquitous, Americanized Tex-Mex version. I got two tacos. Al pastor and carne enchilada. Those have become my two go-to fillings when comparing tacos in my neighborhood. I like to try the al pastor because there is a place nearby that’s widely considered the best in the city so it’s a good benchmark. This version was tasty but perhaps a bit heavy on the pineapple. I also always like to try the carne enchilada (spicy pork) simply because it’s my favorite filling. I have to say, they did a very good job.
It’s not the cheapest place in the neighborhood but the prices are very reasonable. And because it has an extensive menu, this is a good option for families – something for everyone. But mostly…that patio!