So, when I had a function in Texas City yesterday to attend, I decided to travel through Deer Park and try out a few items in Jimmy Changas for lunch on the way. I asked my server what she felt would describe Jimmy Changas and its approach to food. She told me to imagine a “kicked up” Gringo’s. After dining there, I disagree with that characterization. There IS a kicked up approach to the restaurant itself. More formal in design and décor, it is slightly more formal than a Gringo’s. Certainly the service at Gringo’s did not need to be “kicked up”. I think that from the standpoint of service, Ybarra would bristle at the idea that the level of service in one of his restaurants was any better than in any other (except in a Bullritos where there is counter service). The service I experienced at Jimmy Changas was attentive and courteous. Although (full disclosure) I know Russell Ybarra, he did not know that I was dining there, nor did any of his staff know me. I ordered so much food that my server warned me that I would “probably need several doggie bags”. At any rate, I would describe the food as “Tropical Tex-Mex”. While there are Tex-Mex staples on the menu, street food-inspired offerings typical of Tecate taco stands (Traditional and Fajita Rolled Tacos), Tamale Plates and El Paso Burritos (a tip of the sombrero to classic Tex-Mex offerings)… the flavors of the signature items there are strongly influenced by coastal Mexican areas I am familiar with… such as Veracruz, and the Baja Mexico Pacific coast. Lots of seafood there… and several offerings with crawfish featured (Texas/Mexico/New Orleans fusion?).
The Veracruz is a kind of surf, turf and fowl dish with bacon-wrapped shrimp served with a combination of beef and chicken fajitas (I was offered the choice of just beef fajitas instead of the combination, as I was already having an entrée with chicken). This dish shows off two things I think that are done well at Jimmy Changas. First of all… if you are just looking for beef fajitas, this may just be the place to go. In the world of fajitas, restaurants soak skirt steaks in everything from soy sauce to coffee to Italian salad dressing. Jimmy Changas’ fajitas are simply marinated in pineapple juice and lime juice. The tenderizing effect and the acidity of the lime juice combined with the sweetness of the pineapple juice adds the tropical flavor I mentioned, yet is another example of the adherence here to the adage that “less is more”. As far as the bacon-wrapped shrimp are concerned, somehow the bacon was cooked through without over-cooking the shrimp. It’s difficult to do it in my opinion, but the combination of these shrimp with the fajitas showcases two things done right here.
I am sometimes criticized for only writing about the good I see and it is sometimes said that there must be “something wrong in every meal”, but I ignore it. While I didn’t order it on my lunch visit today, but at the soft opening, I tried what has become one of the most popular dishes at Jimmy Changas. A house specialty is Stuffed Avocado. This is a breaded and stuffed whole avocado (stuffed with beef or cheese) served atop a “ranchero salsa”. Every one of my tablemates at the opening of the restaurant months ago thought that this was wonderful. Me? Not too much. I thought that the combination of the avocado and the deep frying was too contrived (gratuitous textural contrast) and distracted from the creaminess of the avocado. Yet, everyone else loves it. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. Just sayin’.
A second location is slated to open in the Spring of 2012 on Highway 646 in League City. The new location, like the one in Pasadena, will also be family-friendly with a fun playground for younger members of the family dubbed “Jimmy’s Jungle”.