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Jalapeno Express: Fast Mexican food in Downtown Duluth!

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Jalapeno Express has finally opened downtown in the space where Maya Mexican (and Grapevine Cafe, and Taj India, and Mr. Nick’s) used to be. My husband and I caught them in the middle of their “soft” opening and partook of a couple of burritos. Due to some confusion while we were ordering, we ended up with some extra food. I’m pleased to say that Duluth now officially has a legitimate answer to Chipotle. The chicken was good, the carnitas was good, and the al Pastor was terrific as well. We added some awesome cheese dip, chips and a rice drink called “horchata” (which was suggested by the staff). I work nearby, and I think I’ll be hitting them up for quick Mexican at least once or twice per week!

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55 Comment(s)

  1. One of the things I appreciate about Chipotle is that they are very picky about the meat they purchase and have a commitment to free range livestock. What do you know about Jalapeno Express on this score? To me that’s what sets Chipotle apart from other burrito joints.

    ironic1 | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  2. What sort of prices are we looking at?

    Zacaroo | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  3. Hours?

    adam | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  4. They didn’t seem totally sure of their hours just yet. I think their “official” opening isn’t until this coming week some time.

    Prices were similar to Chipotle. For two burritos, two beverages, chips and cheese dip it was about $16. I did grab a take-out menu. To order a burrito, three tacos, bowl or salad the take-out menu lists $6.55. You can get a single taco for $2.25 or a quesadilla for $7.25. Meat choices are chicken, steak, carnitas, barbacoa, al Pastor, or vegetarian. They have soft drinks, beer, or wine.

    There is a whole selection of free toppings to choose from, again similar to Chipotle. Add-ons with additional pricing were chips and salsa, chip and cheese dip, guacamole, extra tortillas or soup. They also have a kids menu for $4.25 (two tacos, burrito or quesadilla).

    I was very pleased, as I found the flavor of the meat and toppings far superior to the “other” burrito joint in town. If you like Mexico Lindo, you will likely enjoy Jalapeno Express.

    Spectrum | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  5. BTW- a friend did tell me they were open for lunch today (Saturday the 29th). My husband and I were there last night around maybe 7:30. I would think anyone heading to the hockey game tonight would probably find them open for dinner (just guessing).

    Spectrum | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  6. $6.65 for a burrito. Had I known they were open I would have had lunch there Friday. I saw the menu one of my co-worker’s had gotten at 4 in the afternoon.

    Shane | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Same people as Lindo are behind this. I’ll have to check it out. Duluth can’t have too many Mexican food places as far as I am concerned. And I love Lindo.

    Claire | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  8. Ate there last night on way to hockey game. Saw they were open thanks to aMexico Lindo Facebook notification. Son and I each had the steak burrito w/rice and veggies. Very good! Veggies and cilantro tasted very fresh, meat was flavorful. That plus two Cokes was ~$17. Very filling -- almost passed on ice cream at the game. Staff was helpful, despite opening day probs with computers and printing my cc receipt. Gave a free sample of the horchata (tasty). Agree with previous comment: if you like Lindo, you’ll probably like this.

    Koz | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  9. Cursed location -- doomed.

    Bad Cat! | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  10. They were closed a little before 7:30PM Saturday, so maybe it was a test run for next week.

    adam | Oct 29, 2011 | New Comment
  11. This is an exciting development!

    Do you think that the protesters down at Occupy Duluth would eat Chipotle burritos? Chipotle cleared $178MM last year with 1,100+ “restaurants.”

    digit3 | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  12. Digit3: Did they close tons of resturants and fire all the employees while raping their 401K accounts to pad the pocket of the CEO?

    If so, then the protestors wouldn’t eat Chipotle. Also, we don’t have a Chipotle up here for them to eat at anyway.

    Just because a company makes money doesn’t mean the protestors are against them. They are against cutting jobs to pad the 1% pocketbooks.

    Endion | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  13. Woot Endion!

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  14. @ironic1

    Chipotle does not use free range livestock. They do use hormone-free and sometimes organic meat.

    Lojasmo | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  15. Sweet, as noted the place is doomed as clearly restaurant are not meant to exist there, but horchata rules! I’ll be down for some.

    Melanie | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  16. Lojasmo, thanks for the correction and clarification.

    ironic1 | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  17. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the “oh no, kiss of death spot!” reaction as well. I did follow it up with a “well, those folks have made the Fitger’s spot work, which had some poor luck, and seem to have enough money left over to try another expansion. Hopefully it does work as a good local option on the Chipotle model which would be win win, also hopefully it will be good enough that people will stop moaning about needing another (albeit decent) national chain restaurant. Fingers crossed (the Maya iteration kinda sucked). Now we just need 1. good/fast fish and chips and 2. a fast/cheap/basic noodle shop.

    edgeways | Oct 30, 2011 | New Comment
  18. Last May, when Maya closed, we cobbled together a timeline of the that space with pictures of different permutations of the storefront.

    ironic1 | Oct 31, 2011 | New Comment
  19. The key to this location failing so often is that there really has not been a quality food establishment there since Mr Nick’s.

    I mean, Burger King? Grapevine? Taj?

    If the food is good, people will eat there. Especially when it is right downtown. If this place is run by the same guys who do Mexico Lindo, and the food is fresh, then it has more going for it than the past five attempts at a restaurant in that spot.

    Question | Oct 31, 2011 | New Comment
  20. I loved Taj, it was fantastic Indian food at a good price. Much better than India Palace since the Lakhans sold it, IMHO.

    Claire | Oct 31, 2011 | New Comment
  21. I loved Taj, too, and I have been totally unimpressed with India Palace. We need a GOOD Indian place in town.

    Sonya | Oct 31, 2011 | New Comment
  22. Stopped at Jalapeno Express today for lunch.

    $8.71 after tax for a Burrito and at 16oz pop is a pretty darn good deal. Especially considering the burrito was about the size of 2 of the Burrito Union’s two-fisters.

    Had the Carnitas burrito, with Cilantro Lime rice, beans, hot salsa, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, pico de gallo, lettuce, red onion and tomato.

    The carnitas were a little bland, but I think that is by design. By itself the meat was not amazing, but with the fresh cilantro and rice it was excellent . Reminded me of the goat tacos I had on my last trip down south. Mmm.. Goat.

    They have 6 different options (burrito, bowl, 3 tacos, salad, single tacos and Quesadilla) with five different meat choices (Chicken, Steak, Carnitas, Barbacoa and al Pastor) as well as a vegetarian option means pretty much anyone will have something they like.

    They also serve beer and wine.

    Of course, you can still get their chips and salsa … though it is not free like when you go to Lindo, but I’m not complaining.

    The fact that this location kinda sucks should not cause you to turn away, as the food (so far) is great.

    Question | Nov 1, 2011 | New Comment
  23. I was there for lunch too today! I had two chicken tacos a la carte and a reg. size of horchata. The bill was $6-$7. My tacos were fabulous and the hot salsa I added made them even better. The venue indeed isn’t the greatest, but it’s really great food at a good price, and it’s fast. The horchata was delicious!

    Claire | Nov 1, 2011 | New Comment
  24. So I told the family about the new place and we went there for dinner, it was DELICIOUS! Joel said his meat filled tacos (corn) were great, the kid liked her steak tacos, I loved my chicken taco. Joel had 3 tacos, the kid had 2, and I had 1. 2 beers. Bill came to about $25, if that.

    I am a very picky eater when it comes to Mexican food, b/c I grew up eating the best home cooked Mexican food in the world. This place is fabulous and I urge everyone to check it out, it’s the best taco joint in town. Love the salsas too.

    Claire | Nov 1, 2011 | New Comment
  25. Just tried a burrito for lunch. Size was definitely a win over Burrito Union, though I have to say it lost on flavor. Not bad, but sort of bland. BU might not be as big, but they’ve always satisfied my palette, which I find more important that pure volume. I’ll have to try again with a different blend of innards, and give them time to perfect their menu.

    Next test is to wait 30 minutes and see if I’m hating my life choices as bad as the few times I got garbage burritos from that Keneke’s place that used to be in the area. That was like getting a brick catapulted into my stomach.

    Sjixxxy | Nov 2, 2011 | New Comment
  26. You probably just weren’t using enough hot sauce sjixxxy, their extra hot hot sauce appears to be made from Habanero and adds an enticing flavor. Though I might’ve felt better had a crew of authentic Mexicans been constructing my burrito, alas, still has some unexplainable level of authenticity over the Union. Maybe those leathery tortillas, pulled chunks of Barbacoa, or the Mariachi, and also I suppose because theirs (Union) is a refined hippy flavour. Blackberry-steak in a wine-reduction burrito with commentary on class warfare. Some people prefer that instead, which is fine. Hey, where else can you get Fitger’s beer and a burrito?
    So far, Jalapenos serves a nice, fairly cheap, inner-city, somewhat authentic place to get some hopefully late night burritos and horchata, or Negra Modelo, to anchor the booze with. Hopefully, they add a little pizazz too, and some incentive, to stay strong. Size matters, but change is constant.

    Rand McNally | Nov 3, 2011 | New Comment
  27. There are only so many authentic Mexicans here in Duluth, and they already work at Lindo’s.

    Damned Gringos.

    Question | Nov 3, 2011 | New Comment
  28. Actually, all three employees the first day I was there were all Mexican. And they were wearing Mexico Lindo shirts (the same company owns both restaurants).

    Perhaps not all the staff are Mexican, but there are certainly several working there.

    Erica | Nov 3, 2011 | New Comment
  29. Ate lunch there yesterday, and it was great. I’m not an expert on Mexican food, but it seemed pretty authentic. Biggest burrito I’ve ever seen(or eaten). You can add sauces to your taste preferences. Seemed like most of the staff was Hispanic- almost seemed like a family- but I’m not sure of that. They also have beer and wine-which most of the previous restaurants in that location didn’t have- so that’s a plus, and maybe will help them maker it. I know a cold brew is a must when having Mexican food.

    chiefly | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  30. I’ll be back.

    schutzenegger | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  31. The line was out the door at noon today.

    I’ve eaten there a few times. I find it pretty good. Hot sauce is not that hot so don’t be afraid of no medium option. Add black beans and grilled vegs to your item.

    The staff seems a mix of core Lindo folks (the lady behind the counter worked at Fitger’s Mexico Lindo but she says they have her down there now), and some gringos.

    edgeways | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  32. I went there for lunch two days ago and thought it was really good. It was about 1:30ish, there was almost no one there. Hearing the line was out the door today is a great thing. Both the steak burrito and horchata were delicious!

    Chad S | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  33. I hope this place succeeds. I think it will. Great food, cheap, and fast. Plus that horchata is so delicious!

    Claire | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  34. I think the lines at the counter happen at noon and by 1 p.m. it thins out. I went on Thursday at 1 p.m., there was no line and the service was super fast. I thought my burrito was great, but I’m no connoisseur. (And yes, I do find the use of the words “connoisseur” and “burrito” in the same sentence to be funny.)

    Regarding hot sauce — this has kind of been mentioned above, but not clearly: If you ask for your burrito “hot,” it won’t really be hot, but there is a suitably hot sauce available on the condiments table.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 4, 2011 | New Comment
  35. I went there with Mrs. Goose on Wednesday evening. No one else in the place and we got the food for takeout in less than 10 minutes. Best burrito I’ve ever had in Duluth. I hope the business makes it, too.

    wildgoose | Nov 5, 2011 | New Comment
  36. Wow. My wife picked this up for dinner tonight. Yum. Fills our craving for Chipotle. 5/5. The pork was amazingly flavorful.

    Loren Gilbertson | Nov 5, 2011 | New Comment
  37. Yeah best burrito in Duluth by far. Good value, good location (right next to RT’s!) and good food. Hope they beat the curse.

    Ben | Nov 6, 2011 | New Comment
  38. We tried it last night. The place was empty, and the burritos were terrific. What a great addition to town. Thanks to y’all for letting us know it was there and worth the stop.

    They need a more prominent sign outside. We knew where it was and drove by it twice.

    bluenewt | Nov 6, 2011 | New Comment
  39. Any word on if the bowl would be gluten free? I know Chipotle advertises that theirs is, but I’ve gotten sick from theirs before. I would love to have some fast Mexican food on my lunch break downtown!

    Erin | Nov 6, 2011 | New Comment
  40. The burritos are huge. I might have to try the tacos next time…

    Shane | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  41. Tried going there today for lunch, and the only pleasant experience I had was the horchata. I attempted to explain that I needed my meal to be gluten free, but something went awry and I felt awful for the rest of my afternoon at work. I loved the horchata -- light and sweet. The bowl I ordered was good, and I found the carnitas to be the best part of it. The chips and guacamole, however, were bland. Overall: 5/10.

    Erin | Nov 9, 2011 | New Comment
  42. I have tried a few menu options and haven’t been disappointed yet! Everything is always fresh and tasty. Yesterday I tried the guacamole, it was very good. My favorite is the carnitas. The horchata is also amazing!!! I hope they last! Oh and the cheese dip!?! Yes please!

    Sam | Nov 9, 2011 | New Comment
  43. I don’t mean to be doubtful — your body is your body. But presumably, if you order gluten free, you get cheese, meat, sour cream, veggies, and salsa in a bowl? How could that be screwed up? Cross-contamination? Of what with what?

    Not all corn chips are gluten free (http://www.fritolay.com/our-snacks/fritos.html); could that be the issue?

    This person claims that some guacamole has gluten: http://www.celiac.com/blogs/82/Gluten-Hangover-Lingering.html

    Can you nail it down for them and for future eaters?

    David | Nov 9, 2011 | New Comment
  44. I went here last Friday with some co workers. I consumed the vegetarian burrito. I love burritos and have a really hard time finding a burrito that feels like it has quality ingredients combined with love in making it. These burritos at Jalapeno are very large and that is neat but I wasn’t wowed by the flavor and craftsmanship. They have a ways to go if they want to match Chipotle’s quality and taste.

    toyota200x | Nov 14, 2011 | New Comment
  45. Yeah, about a hundred eighty miles to go to beat Chipotle.

    zra | Nov 14, 2011 | New Comment
  46. Kate and I went last week.

    I would have loved the burrito except the wrapper was chilly, though the insides were toasty warm. As a result, cheese melted oddly or not at all, and the mouthfeel was a little off.

    Still, the rice drink was to die for, and the young lady who worked behind the counter was service with a smile, even at the end of a long day.

    David | Nov 14, 2011 | New Comment
  47. I’ve never eaten at Chipotle.

    Claire | Nov 14, 2011 | New Comment
  48. The term ‘mouthfeel’ sends shivers down my spine.

    Holt J. Giles | Nov 15, 2011 | New Comment
  49. When I go out for vegetarian burritos it just feels like there is a dollar worth of ingredients and I am paying $8 for the meal (Mexico Lindo). This is why I gravitate toward homemade burritos that are well crafted and have healthy homemade ingredients. Chipotle makes an amazing burrito that doesn’t feel like fast food at all. Burrito Union also gives me this nice feeling most of the time. It is just nice when a meal comes and it looks like someone put some care into placing the ingredients and making it look appetizing. Jalapeno just needs to work on this a bit.

    toyota200x | Nov 15, 2011 | New Comment
  50. I ate at Jalapeno express this afternoon (around 1 o’clock. I was pretty excited to try it, and I ordered a steak quesadilla- the food was pretty bland and “gut filling.” I would skip eating here, you will thank yourself later. And I think they should invest in a few more signs, it took me forever to actually locate the place!

    Mitch | Nov 15, 2011 | New Comment
  51. I had lunch here today it was chicken salad this time. I loved it.

    Claire | Nov 15, 2011 | New Comment
  52. The horchata rules.

    Nathan Amundson | Nov 18, 2011 | New Comment
  53. Horchata and al Pastor bowl Thursday lunch (12:30p) Delish!
    Loved the spices on the pork and pineapple.
    I liked their green and hot sauce too.
    My friend really enjoyed her Carnitas burrito and Horchata as well.

    ruby2sd4y | Nov 19, 2011 | New Comment
  54. I had the Barbacoa burrito on Saturday night and absolutely loved it. Great flavor, awesome portion for the six fifty. New downtown lunch alternative to the sandwich doldrums of Subway and Erbs. Vouching for this place to everyone.

    Sam | Dec 13, 2011 | New Comment
  55. Sorry, I am totally disappointed! I tried it when they first opened and was mildly impressed mostly because of the prices. I just got back to my office with my three soft shell tacos and they are ice cold and the ground hamburger is seriously disgusting! Unfortunately I won’t be coming back or referring any of my clients or coworkers there. Seems I am the only one so it shouldn’t hurt their business too much.

    Kladu | Jan 6, 2012 | New Comment

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