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Jalapeño's Brookside  |  Kansas City, MO

Jalapeño's Brookside | Kansas City, MO

Like Father...Like Son at This Bustling Spot

When Justin Hernandez began studying civil engineering, his father, Ben Hernandez, encouraged him down that career path, advising him to never get involved in the family restaurant business. Apparently, it was too late. Justin decided that he couldn’t sit at a computer for eight hours a day. “I had bussed tables at our family’s Mexican restaurant in Kansas City since I was 12 years old. I liked working with the staff and the customers, and I developed a true interest in the industry. I realized that a restaurant career had chosen me, so I studied food and beverage at a community college. I am proud to say that I have been successfully working alongside my dad here at Jalapeños Brookside for ten years. I’ve inherited his passion for the business.”

Ben Hernandez opened Jalapeño's Brookside in 1995. Brookside Plaza is a trendy pedestrian shopping destination in Kansas City. The surrounding neighborhood demographics include a mix of both families and singles, lending lots of foot traffic to the area. Upon entering Jalapeños, the ambiance immediately suggests fun and fiesta. The impressive bar sets the stage with a pleasing expanse of wood, colorful glass and mirrors.

Guests are greeted with complimentary chips and salsa of the highest quality, an indication of other good things to come. “We have very little freezer space here,” said Justin Hernandez. “We don’t need it because everything is prepared fresh each day. The kitchen starts prepping at 8 a.m. for lunch and dinner, which we serve seven days a week.”

The menu reflects what the city’s customers want, which is closer to Tex-Mex than classic Mexican cuisine. “We do strive for authenticity and what is unique and genuine. For example, our pork is slow-cooked for up to four hours. It is so tender and flavorful.” It is used in dishes such as the Old El Paso, which serves up a generous portion of the braised pork in sauce, with soupy beans, rice and tortillas. It is also the basis for Mexican Chile and an option for burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tamales, chimichangas and other specialties. Beef, chicken, steak, shrimp and vegetables are the other varietal choices adding dimension to the bill of fare.

Several of the entrées on the dinner menu feature combinations of specialties so that diners can taste different dishes at one sitting. For example, the Jalapeño Platter has a large beef taco, a cheese and onion enchilada, pork tamale and a bean tostada, served with beans and rice for good measure. Listed as “the most popular burrito in Kansas City,” the Jalapeño Dip Burrito is a large flour tortilla stuffed with beans, the choice of beef, chicken, braised or grilled pork, and topped with the restaurant’s signature Jalapeño Dip, which is a blend of jalapeño cheese and special secret ingredients.

The Chile Rellenos delivers two plump, battered Anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese and topped with red sauce and beef, pork or chicken. There are three distinct styles of tacos at Jalapeños Brookside: soft shell, hard shell and the Vera Cruz, in which fillings are encased in a flour tortilla and fried till crispy all around. The sizzle of fajitas announce their arrival at tableside, with an array of grilled onions, red and green bell peppers and seasoned strips of steak, chicken breast, grilled pork, shrimp or veggies.

In a nod to customer lifestyle preferences, the “Mo Healthy” section of the menu provides more healthful options such as burritos made with low carb/low fat wheat tortillas, Burrito in a Bowl (without tortillas) and the Protein Platter (beef, chicken and pork with a side of queso cheese).

Daily food and drink specials and the sheer variety of menu options have likely helped to ensure the continued success of this well-established Mexican standout in the nation’s Heartland.

Another success driver: “We have very little staff turnover, either front or back,” Justin Hernandez said. “We feel this is one of the important factors in our success. We value our staff very highly.”


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