I really can’t remember the first time I went to Jacala Mexican Restaurant. There are probably a lot of residents of San Antonio who can’t remember either. What they probably do remember is that they can’t remember a time NOT going. Jacala has been around since 1949 and boasts that it is the oldest originally owned restaurant in San Antonio. I don’t think I have ever gone to the restaurant and not seen one of the owners there, greeting and seating. Jacala is one of those restaurants that has withstood the test of time, whose patrons bring their children and grandchildren to enjoy the food.
Granted, in my opinion, Jacala does not serve the most delicious and outstanding Mexican food in town. What they do serve is consistently good food at a good price. Even with long lines, you won’t wait long before you are seated. Restaurants serving poor food do not stick around as long as Jacala has. That, in and of itself, should be reason enough to check it out.
I recently went to Jacala with my family, my parents, and two second cousins, one of whom will be moving to San Antonio soon. One of my cousins, Carlos, had the guts to try the chicken enchiladas with mole sauce. Mole, to the uninitiated, can be a daunting dish. Made poorly, and you will forever swear off Mexican cuisine. Made well, and mole is an extremely complex sauce (Rick Bayless has an excellent description here). Although its base is stock (normally chicken), chili paste (usually from a non-spicy pepper like a pasilla), and bitter chocolate, most recipes can include upwards of 20 other spices and ingredients. In general, the mole flavor is pungent and sweet (like chocolate and raisins) all at the same time. Everyone has a different recipe for mole, some good, some bad. This one was good (not great, but good). Carlos loved it, and I respect anyone who will at least try something new (heck, he didn’t even know what an enchilada was).
The gorditas here are pretty good. The masa (or dough) is not overly grease-laden and the ground beef is not undercooked (which is a pretty common way many restaurants save money by not allowing so much shrinkage). They come two to a plate and are about 5-6 inches in diameter. As you can see by the picture, they are fairly messy to eat. The puffy tacos, although a little small, are pretty tasty. And the enchiladas, whether smothered in cheese, or topped with green sauce or mole, are pretty good.
Personally, I can’t get enough of the table sauce. If you can’t either, you should be able to find a jar with the restaurant’s name on it at your local grocer (assuming you live in San Antonio). If you have not checked out Jacala, I would recommend that you at least drop in to see why the rest of San Antonio loves this place.