I’m a big fan of small plates restaurants. It sometimes feels like such a shame to eat a large portion of one thing when there are so many menu items I want to try. But with small plates, you can try several different things, and if you bring a friend you can try even more! That’s why I fell in love with Jalapeños, located near the Annapolis Towne Centre in Parole.
Filete de Buey con Cabrales
When I first heard of Jalapeños, I figured it was your standard Tex-Mex place with tacos and burritos. While they do offer such things, the owners (one hailing from Asturias, Spain, the other from Oaxaca, Mexico) together with their chef (also from Oaxaca) have created a winning fusion of authentic Spanish and Mexican cuisine. The dining area has a Mediterranean feel, with a waterfall, open archways, frescos, and homages to Don Quixote, while the bar area gives a more Latin American vibe, with masks brought from all over Mexico hanging above the bar.
Choose an entrée or pick from an impressive menu of tapas and antojitos (the Mexican equivalent). Happy hour is a particularly good time to visit, as the tapas menu is discounted at $7 apiece. Happy hour specials run seven days a week—Sunday through Thursday from 4:00 to 7:00 and Friday and Saturday from 4:00 to 6:00—but try to arrive early! The specials are only valid in the bar area, which features a short bar and ten high-top tables, and space fills up quickly. The seating there is best suited for couples and groups of four or under. In addition to the $7 plates, enjoy a $3 bottled beer or $6 traditional sangria by the glass or house margarita. Feeling fancy? Step up your game by choosing from among nineteen different tequilas.
Even with the flexibility of a small plates menu, choosing plates was hard. While I grappled with the decision, I ordered guacamole to tide me over. Served in a stone molcajete, the guacamole was freshly made in the Oaxacan style and came with warmed tortilla chips.
Molcajete: a traditional Mexican mortar and pestle
Next, I went for a Spanish classic: croquetas. The plate came with five plump croquetas and a tangy red sauce for dipping. Reminiscent of mozzarella sticks in presentation only, this finger food is not your average bar snack. Be prepared for a rich and savory haven of battered béchamel goodness.
I also tried the Chorizo Cantimpalo and the Filete de Buey con Cabrales. The paprika-marinated chorizo was sliced and sautéed into crispy, bacon-like pieces and served over potatoes. Also served over potatoes, the seared sirloin steak came smothered in creamy Spanish bleu cheese sauce and topped with scallions.
Whether you’re meeting the girls for sangria and snacks or going on a date, happy hour at Jalapeños is a great time to try a variety of tasty food, both familiar and adventurous, at a modest price. And if there’s one thing I learned at Jalapeños, it’s this: Big flavors can come in small packages.
Images courtesy of Leslie Howard-Goddard