Jarrito Loco makes abuela's best recipes from scratch to great success 

click to enlarge Jarrito Loco's from-scratch approach serves it well on all fronts. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Jarrito Loco's from-scratch approach serves it well on all fronts.

On our first visit to Monument's Jarrito Loco, we rely on Google Maps to lead us to the unfamiliar destination. It takes us five minutes of hunting for a turnoff to confirm Google's wrong. It's not just us, co-owner Angel Jimenez says when we call for directions; Google dropped west for east and has been sending folks to the middle of the woods for some time.

In reality, Angel and wife Angie's restaurant sits in the corner of a shopping center near Safeway, just west of I-25. The small spot's densely decorated with colorful flags, plates, rugs and a Mexican-themed bar, certainly lively if perhaps not breezy in cold November.

The Jimenezes named it for a Jaliscoan cocktail, and they offer two versions on the menu, each served in a custom clay jug rimmed half with salt, half with Tajín seasoning and garnished with citrus wheels. The Jarrito Loco comes with tequila, Squirt grapefruit soda, orange juice and chunks of orange, sipping light and refreshing with a mild bitter finish. The Jarrito Norteño replaces oranges with apples and adds rum for a rounded finish.

Sturdy, house-made chips come with two house salsas, a citrus-bright tomatillo green and a smoky-rich red with a slow-building heat. We find plenty of use for both on the appetizer molletes, a split bolillo roll heaped with black beans and queso fresco, then broiled, served with side pico de gallo. The menu says the dish hails from Guanajuato — Angel's identified most menu items with a city or region of origin. They're largely his grandmother's recipes, learned and refined mostly during her time living in Mexico City.

Location Details Jarrito Loco
582 W. Highway 105
Monument, CO

We're sold on the spot's tacos, each served in a thick, house-made corn tortilla, priced $3.25 to $3.50 each. The Yucatan-style cochinita pibil's slow-cooked pork chews tender in a complex, warming sauce under pickled onions, a delight. The beef arrachera taco, grilled with green onions and topped with guac, delights, as does a chicken norteño taco, tender and juicy under queso fresco and sliced avocado. They're served with side pico and a little cup of fine-cut habanero peppers for spice lovers. We also find joy in a side of frijoles charros, or cowboy beans, bright with onion, garlic and chile powder.

From the breakfast menu, served until 2 p.m., a Mexico City dish called huevos divorciados presents two-egg huevos rancheros with two sauces: a tangy tomatillo verde salsa and a warming ranchero sauce, separating the divorced eggs with a pile of thick and spicy chilaquiles and black beans. It's perhaps the tastiest divorce settlement in history.

The menu denotes Puebla-style enmoladas — mole enchiladas — as a signature dish, so we order them with chicken rather than cheese. House mole deftly balances sweet and savory, bearing a pleasant mix of chocolate richness, anise sweetness and subtle chile smoke and warmth, one of the more balanced expressions of the complex sauce we've had in recent memory. We also get a pulled pork-ham-cheese torta Cubana to go, finding its mix of tomato, beans, mayonnaise, onion, avocado and jalapeño on a telera roll plenty satisfying and filling.

For dessert, try sopapillas, here served under cajeta — a dairy-based caramel sauce — and pecans. That cajeta, made in-house, amps up already good sopapillas from indulgent to decadent. Just like so much of the spot's stunner menu, the secret's simple: Start from scratch, just like abuela, and you'll end up with something loco-good.

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