Last visit: June 2013
For the second week in a row, Mrs. RJG and I decided to head to the other side of US-377 and try a newly opened Mexican restaurant. And like last week's Elote, Las Pinatas (forgive the lack of the diacritic here - I'm just too lazy to copy one in) was certainly good, but nothing exceptional. We'll get into that here in a minute.
First let's talk about the history of Las Piñatas (OK, I found the right phonetic). This is the former Jalapeno's in Keller, which we wrote about a couple of years ago. Here's what I wrote in Urbanspoon: "The name change is a good idea, since I think it was causing confusion with the nearby taqueria of the same name (but different owners)." We liked Jalapeno's, though granted we only went a couple of times. Perhaps Las Piñatas is even better. Is it? No. About the same honestly.
The location sits in a very odd shopping strip center off of North Tarrant. It's built on top of a hill. To get to the restaurant from the parking lot, you can run up a couple of flights of stairs; take a long winding ramp; or practice your mountain climbing skills. In either case, it's a great way to build up a thirst for a frozen margarita or a beer. So after your pre-meal exercise, you open the door, and find a very weird looking restaurant. Honestly it looks like the break room of some 1970s office supply warehouse. There are a few tables scattered about. Beer signs and mirrors adorn the walls in haphazard fashion. There's what looks like a fast food counter area where the food actually does come out of the kitchen. There are the requisite piñatas hanging from the ceiling. And there are electrical wires hanging everywhere - AND you have a clear vision into their storage areas. It doesn't feel like a restaurant at all. I think they did a pretty good job with the bar area on the right side of the restaurant - but that's about it. Honestly it looks like a college guy's dormroom. All that's missing is the Playboy pinups. There's not an ounce of a feminine touch to the decor. So that's a big minus - definitely not a date place! The outside patio area is much more inviting, but who's going to sit out there in the summer?
OK - so now that we're sweaty and sitting in the breakroom, let's get a frozen margarita shall we? Oh it's not frozen yet. GRRRRR... as you all know, that is one of my big pet peeves. Especially in the summer! C'mon, turn the doggone thing on early would ya (big minus). As an aside, I just read my original review of Jalapeno's, and they had the exact same problem with this. Guess they don't read the RJG, huh? Anyway, the waitress did a remarkable save though and poured what was in the machine and concocted her own blender version. I usually despise blender margaritas, but this was pretty close to the machine - so that's a plus. The chips were crisp and tasty, and the standard red hot sauce had a very nice smoky chipotle taste (plus). I asked for a hotter salsa, and out came this really mean looking blended green sauce. It's fantastic! Must be a blend of jalapeno's and serrano's. And it was very hot. So a huge plus there.
Things are looking up here! Mrs. RJG went for the street tacos (al carbon, and al pastor). They were delicious with excellent homemade corn tortillas and wonderfully seasoned meat. And tender (PLUS). I went for puffed tacos, which is not something you see everywhere. I think Ojeda's is the origin of this great dish, and of course Esparza's copied it. In fact we just had a team dinner at Ojeda's (on Maple) this past week and their puffed tacos were incredible. At Jalapeno's they are... they are.... terrible (MINUS). The meat is way too juicy/greasy, so the shell just breaks down into a complete mess, leaving a mushy taco salad on the plate. I went with one spicy chicken and one ground beef. The spicy chicken is 1) not spicy and 2) not chicken. Well it might be, but it was probably rooster or some other bird that tastes like a bird. It was gross tasting. The ground beef had a nice flavor but was way too mushy. The rice and refried beans, on the other hand, were excellent. Especially the beans (PLUS).
The cost of the entrees are way too expensive for what you get (MINUS), but the drink prices are excellent (my margarita was $4 and Mrs. RJG's beer was $3) (PLUS).
So a real yin/yang experience we had at Las Piñatas. I gave it a "likes it" on Urbanspoon, but boy that's just barely. Like pass/fail in college, and the pass grade is a 60. We probably won't be going back.