Food & Drink » Appetite

Happy Jack



There's a new mean, median and mode for regional Mexican, and it's in the middle of a shopping center in Falcon. Guadalajara Family Mexican Restaurant, a four-location Colorado chain, is my new go-to for provisions likely to please the picky and prodigious alike, not only because of its hugely diverse menu, but also because it's got a little bit of everything.

Think of the big restaurant as a more interesting On the Border: You've got your wooden-plank accents, wrought-iron dividers and pastel teals, oranges and reds. You've got your bombastic pink, plastic booths, like those at Arceo's Mexican Restaurant, as well as your country pastoral scenes. You've even got small statues of Brahma bulls, complete with dangling Rocky Mountain oysters, sitting on booth ledges.

And on the menu you've got everything else — really. Page after page offers different kinds of seafood and chicken and beef and salads and burritos and soups and appetizers. Though not everything's worth a trip east from, say, downtown, we never ran into anything we'd be too heartbroken to eat again, especially considering portions the size of serving trays.

The Mexican Pizza ($7.95), for instance, is filling enough to be two meals, let alone begin one. It's essentially a seven-layer dip, plus muddy ground chorizo, spread over a buttery crisped tortilla, and it fairly demands to be paired with alcohol. The Ultimate Margarita ($9.50) is not a bad option, with its Patrón Silver, but an over-pour of Cointreau made ours taste too much like orange extract. (Plus, it weirdly came in a filtered shaker, so we poured ice-free refills into a small, barely salted martini glass.)

The eponymous Molcajete ($17.25) promised "tender pieces of beef, chicken and grilled pork" in "our new Mexican green sauce and pico de gallo." Definitely green with avocado, the huge stone bowl came off like hot, sour guacamole with melted Jack cheese — bizarre for an entrée, but with delicious chunks of meat, really not bad in warm flour tortillas.

Before I go further, let's talk about the restaurant's salsa, because it's phenomenal. Thin, loose and dark red, it packs in enough impressive, oily heat that it tastes like it just came off the taco truck. Little bits of chili skin get stuck in your teeth, then your taste buds, then your brain.

The same cannot be said of the Camarones Culichi ($13.50), a dish that seemed to deploy extra butter into the spinach sauce to distract from the rubbery prawns. The Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña ($13.50) offered something of a comeback with a juicy steak so thin you could tear it, but a weak mole enchilada brought it down.

In our next visit, our Queso Fundido ($5.95) appetizer brought some nice, cumin-heavy chorizo under a cap of melted Jack — more filling, fun-to-eat tortilla fare — while a Chile Verde ($8.95) delivered both tender and overcooked pork chunks in a tangy tomatillo sauce.

A clear knockout, though, was the Sopa Siete Mares ($16.50), a giant seafood stew that simply defies completion. Filets of whitefish, tiny scallops, clams, mussels, chunks of calamari lined in purple, plump shrimp and protruding crab legs swam in a salty, cilantro-rich tomato broth. With a pile of shells left over at the end, it was a damn good time.

And there's more where that came from. Take our server at lunch: "I'll come back in a couple of minutes," he advised us. "And those are going to be Mexican minutes, so please be patient."

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