I had no intention of trying a Tex Mex restaurant in an area where authentic Mexican food is so abundant. However, a blended margarita craving made me decide to check out the local options.
The margaritas are very nice. I had two. I had the standard blended margarita which is NOT made with a mix ($4.50). It is served with a red straw in a glass with a green cactus stem. Nice touch with the whitish drink, you had the colors of the Mexican flag.
I finished dinner with the Top Shelf Margarita ($7.35) only served on the rocks with Cuervo 1800, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier. Both were good, but I preferred the Top Shelf.
Nice very thin house made chips and salsa. Given the fresh tomato situation in March, I would say this started with good canned tomatoes. It was very good, medium spicy. Loved those chips.
Chose the chicken/steak fajita combo. It came out sizzling with slices of pepper, onion and chopped tomato. The onion continued to cook and brown during the meal. Very good. Nice thin flour tortillas (corn if you ask) plus standard beans and rice (a little dryish). There was a scoop of sour cream and a little guacamole.
Standard Tex Mex available. There were three dishes with NY Steak and Rib Eye.
ALL the Mexican beers were available. A nod to wine (Vendage). There's a bar area off the the side of the restaurant.
There was a fruit frappe available with strawberries, ice, milk and sugar topped with whipped cream ($3.75).
The restaurant has been in Pinole for at least 15 years. I dont know what to think of the décor because it is so true to the Baja style. It has the true funkiness of a Mexican small restaurant that places like Chevys try to replicate. Standard taco joint chairs and tables covered with various patterned vinyl tablecloths courtesy of K-Mart. A little flickering candle on each table.
Every inch of shelf space or window sill is covered with ceramics or plants. There were ceramic cookie jars, smiling hippos, pigs, African violets, bamboo plants, etc, etc. Every inch of wall space was covered with the most eclectic range of pictures, everything from a print of Picassos Don Quixote to pages from coloring books that a child had colored with crayon. One wall had a large painting of a bull and bullfighter on black velvet. A few colorful paper mache and stuffed toucans hung discretely from the ceiling. Sombreros of various colors filled in any empty space on the wall. A huge yellow gum ball machine is next to the register. A Don Miguel CD provided the music. It wasnt Chevy slick. It was real I think.
The joys of being in a small town. This is right next to Hunan Villa which seems to be the hot spot on Saturday night in Pinole. I was amused that in Hunan Villa, my waiter was Caucasian and the bus boy was Mexican. At jumping bean, I had Chinese waiters.
So I ask the waiter about the Japanese place next to Hunan Villa. He says it has new owners and he hasnt tried it. He says he hasnt tried Hunan Villa either. So in my most charming manner I say
Me: It sucks
Waiter: My cousin owns it
Me (trying to recover): Gary Wong? Doesnt he own Pear Street Café too? I love Pear Street Café. Hunan Villa seems pretty popular. Perhaps I chose wrong.
Waiter: I havent eaten there since his father owned the place
Me: Yeah, I hear the food was really good then
I order the second margarita just so I have something in my mouth to stop me from talking.
After dinner I stroll by Hunan Villa. A crew of Chinese chefs can be seen in the open window, woking things up as the menu says. People are lined up and waiting to get in. Perhaps I did choose wrong however, there were strobe lights involved tonight at Hunan Villa. Well, its somewhere on my list again to try perhaps.
the jumping bean bar & grill
(there's an e. e. cummings thing going on)
Del Monte Shopping Center
624=E San Pablo Avenue
Pinole, CA 94564