Guacamole Mex-Grill

Having grown up in the neighborhood, West Philly remains one of my favorite places in the city. It’s amazing to see the transformation that has taken place outside of just the Baltimore Avenue corridor. Four Worlds Bakery, for example, on 46th and Woodland, has one of the best olive rosemary loaves I’ve ever tasted and it makes people walk south of Baltimore or even, gasp, south of Chester Avenue!

I was recently at my parents’ and wanted to grab a bite to eat with my husband and sister. My parents recommended this new little place that had just opened at 46th and Woodland called “Guacamole.” 46th and Woodland?? I thought. My parents said they hadn’t been there yet but had heard good things and I figured this could turn into a little blogging adventure. I was ready to hop into the car when my sister said “why don’t we just walk?” I guess I’m turning into a South Philly suburbanite. I never would have thought to walk to 46th and Woodland, which is all of 4 blocks away from my parents.

We strolled down a sun-kissed 47th street. West Philadelphia is just so perfect sometimes. When we arrived at Guacamole, its color stood out admidst the otherwise drab homes and businesses on the block.

We stepped inside the bright and cheery looking space and stepped up to the counter. Guacamole is small, with only about 15-20 seats. You order at the counter and they bring your food to the table.

My husband and I couldn’t decide which two burritos to get so we went with carne asada (beef) and al pastor (pork.) The Row Home Eats family has high standards for burritos as we order from our beloved Los Jalapenos 3-4 times a month. Every burrito we eat is always compared to “3 Jalas” as we call it for short. I also ordered a side of tortilla soup because, well, I wanted to try as much as possible. My sister opted for the simple chips and guacamole.

The guacamole came out first and I only had a small bite. It was decent–not the best, not the worst. I prefer mine a bit chunkier with less tang to the tongue.

I love how colorful the place is, from the outside facade to the paint choices and even the brightly colored baskets that the food is served in.

The soup came up next and boy was it a disappointment.

The thing that just makes a perfect tortilla soup is the broth and this was bland and underseasoned to the point of me not wanting to finish it, EVEN with the crispy tortilla strips as accompaniments.

I had high hopes for the burritos.

The burritos were decent-sized. Probably a bit smaller than “3 Jalas” or your local burrito chain. Good new is that the flavor that was missing in the soup was evident in the meat. Both the carne asada and al pastor were flavorful and sweet. My only complaint (and I think it’s legit, don’t think I was being piggy) is that I wish there was a bit more meat, less filling. My parents went to  Guacamole recently and raved about their dishes. If I went back, I think the way to go would be to order one of their platters that highlights the meat a little more. I’m ok with paying $8.50 for a burrito but I want that burrito to be meat forward. You can’t fault for me that!

If the owners spend some time tinkering with some of the flavors and ratios, this place could be a great quick lunch option for those of you who happen to find yourselves in the neighborhood. Oh, and if you do, make sure you swing by Four Worlds Bakery on your way home for a fresh soft pretzel. That’s what we did.

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Los Jalapenos–The End of an Era

About a year or two ago, my husband and I caught sight of a unique delivery menu tangled between the myriad pizza and chinese trifolds that litter our front steps each day. Taqueria Los Jalapenos was a Mexican delivery place at 4th and Moore. South Philadelphia is teeming with Mexican taquerias yet we were moved by the affordable menu and their willingness to deliver. And the kicker–they even took credit cards! Score! We checked it out for the first time with my family and shortly after we hung up the phone, our hot food was at the door. I don’t quite remember what everyone got, but highlights were definitely the chicken and rice soup in a creamy tomato broth and my sister’s carne asada.

Since that fateful night, my husband and I have been ordering from Los Jalapenos almost weekly. We love the friendly service (no joke, every time I hang up the phone I say to my husband “they’re so nice,”) speedy delivery and, more than anything, their hearty and flavorful fare.

A few weeks ago, my husband sent me an article with a note “this is terrible.” We learned that Los Jalapenos would be closing so the owner could focus on his new restaurant, Three Jalapenos, that recently opened at 8th and Christian. Tragic news! We had to get our last few orders in before they closed at the end of February (according to the article.)  On Friday, I called in an order and things seemed a little different. The man answering the phone had trouble hearing me due to lots of metallic banging sounds in the background. When he finally got my order down, I asked him when they would be closing and he responded “well, we were supposed to close today but now we’re closing Monday.” HUH?! First of all, who pushes back a closing? Isn’t it openings that don’t happen on time? More importantly, we thought we had much more time with our beloved Los Jalapenos. Whatever would we do?!? Luckily we ordered a truckload of food that would make for a memorable last meal.

The food came quickly, as usual, and we gave our delivery man a healthy tip in honor of our farewell meal.  This was our closing order: A steak, pepper and onion burrito with guacamole, hold the rice; crispy ground beef tacos, chicken rice soup and El Mojado (two crispy tacos, one guacamole tostada, one cheese enchilada and a side of rice and beans.) The burrito was large and in charge, as usual.

It was chock full of meaty, cheesy, beany, guacamole-y goodness.

We usually share the crispy tacos as an appetizer. Simple, yet tasty. I love a well-made crispy taco with a perfect balance of filling and CRUNCH.

If our dog is extra lucky, she’ll get to lick the container of extras that fell out of the tacos.

The chicken rice soup never skimps on fresh, shredded chicken breast with a rich tomato broth. It comes with a side of corn tortillas for dipping.

Ouch, that picture is really, really bad.

Next up, the noble El Mojado. It starts with two crispy tacos and one guacamole tostada. Depending on the day, the tacos are either chicken or ground beef (or sometimes one of each!)

That tostada is awesome–lots and lots of guacamole contained in a crispy tortilla cup. The next container has a cheese enchilada with a side of rice and beans. My husband usually saves that for leftovers the next day.

My favorite way to eat this is to get a little bit of everything in one bite. The creamy beans are a personal favorite.

I couldn’t write a post on Los Jalapenos without discussing their salsas. Our refrigerator is littered with leftovers of these little packets. The green tomatillo is usually a little smoother and fresh tasting while the red salsa has a great smoky kick. We have a love-hate relationship with these sauces as they seem to be slowly taking over our fridge but they’re just so darn good.

Unfortunately, as quickly as our food was delivered, the dinner came to an end. Goodbye, dear Los Jalapenos (or Three Jalas, as we so affectionately call it,) we will miss you on our Friday movie and Mexican nights. Guess we’ll be seeing you at your new location’s Taco Tuesday–$11.95 for All-You-Can-Eat tacos. While our relationship was too short, we’ll never forget you.