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Bellingham’s restaurant scene is quite eclectic; from the south-end at Fairhaven to the north-end near the airport, one can satisfy just about any culinary craving. However, there are those occasions when one wants more than mere sustenance. Whether in the family-friendly dining room or generously stocked bar, music, laughter and delicious aromas converge, and dining at Jalapeños is always satisfying. There are many fine Mexican restaurants in Whatcom County, but Jalapeños offers a bit more than the rest. Every ingredient used in this made-from-scratch restaurant is the freshest available.

Jalapeños is a family-owned business established by Jesse Cantu. With three locations (Old Town, Barkley and Fairhaven), each appeals to a certain clientele. Though the demographic diversity is unique to each location, the quality of the food is consistently superb. Personally, I am drawn to the hustle and bustle of the downtown Bellingham location on Holly Street, managed by Cantu’s brother, José. This particular location seems to draw folks from all around the area, urban families, and college students celebrating just to celebrate. All converge here and inspire the never-ending party atmosphere. The cocktails are hefty, the portions abundant and the wait staff unfailingly polite.

Quite often when I dine out, I have a certain dish in mind or a craving for a certain flavor. Not so when I visit Jalapeños. I just sit back, relax and let the good times roll.

One of my favorite items is the fresh jalapeno peppers. Charred just until the skin bursts, the fruit crunches with every bite. Prepared simply, these are delicious! Jalapeños is the type of restaurant where one takes family or a gang of friends, too. And the menu here is designed for group entertaining. I’ve traveled the entire breadth and length of this restaurant’s appetizer menu and each item is a lip smacker. At $14.95, The Sampler is a gi-normous assorted platter of Mexican-cuisine-influenced standards: quesadillas, taquitos, mini burritos and spicy jalapeño poppers, and of course the ubiquitous chips and salsa. The menu claims that this platter will serve two to four
people; not true – more like six or seven!

Like many restaurants the menu is compartmentalized, and with so much to offer, Jalapeños’ seven-page menu compartmentalization is more like a public service. This restaurant caters to guests of any diet, including vegetarians. Outside of the supermarket produce section, I’ve never seen so many vegetarian options! Much to the delight of my partner’s vegetarian cousin-in-law, this section of the menu gave her a number of delicious options to choose from.

I’m a committed omnivore, thus the House Favorites section is usually the page I turn to for something new. On my last visit, I feasted upon the Owner’s Favorite, a steal at $21.95. Spice aromas emanate from this plate to pique a hungry diner’s curiosity even before the server sets the plate on the table. A beautifully grilled steak is served with flavorful grilled mixed vegetables, and shrimp wrapped in bacon. The bacon was crunchy and the shrimp cooked to perfection. I still haven’t figured out how the chef did that. Any other restaurant would call this dish something goofy like “surf-in-turf,” but there is nothing kitch about this dish. The meat is succulent, the vegetables fresh, the shrimp tender and moist; I salivate reflecting on that fine meal.

For more drool-inducing menu items, visit Jalapeños at www.jalapenos-wa.com.

August/September 2012 – Bellingham Alive/North Sound Life

"Outside of the supermarket produce section, I’ve never seen so many vegetarian options! "