Casa Jacaranda, 424 Taylor St, Mansfield. 214-283-9122. 10am-3pm Sun, 7am-8pm Tue-Fri, Sat 10am-8pm. All major credit cards accepted.
Casa Jacaranda’s Venus location was so popular with Mexican food aficionados that it was only a matter of time before a Tarrant County location was in the offing. Although the original onsite bakery isn’t duplicated at the small storefront in Mansfield, almost everything else that’s good about this family-owned restaurant, including the made-to-order food and authentic recipes, remains.
There’s no free salsa here, but the night my table of three visited, the packed dining room was evidence that people are willing to overlook such a thing. The guacamole appetizer was reasonably priced, and the basket of extremely thick chips stood up to the chunky, fresh, garlic-laden appetizer. The guac was served with a side of fantastically zesty green tomatillo sauce and a thin red salsa that packed a surprising latent heat.
Casa J’s menu offers a few true Mexican classics, like mole and two kinds of tamales, that you don’t often see in the Tex-Mex landscape of the ’burbs. The kitchen also serves El Huarache, a Mexico City street dish that’s hard to find this far north. The base of fried masa dough (which really looked like the sole of a sandal) was layered with refried beans, enough rice to feed a family of four, succulently grilled onions, tart Cotija cheese, and cilantro. The bonus –– chopped nopales (prickly pear pads), whose lovely gummy texture was reminiscent of okra. The added chicken fajita meat was tasty, if unspectacular. The whole morsel arrived smothered in glorious Mexican crema, which made the dish look like a dinner party cheese ball exploded on a plate. A wetter version of a tostada (or maybe an open-faced gordita), the chewy masa base with beans and rice proved comforting and delicious. In a nod to plant-based eating, soy chorizo is an alternative filling option. Interestingly, almost all of the menu items are adaptable to vegetarian diets.
The chile relleno’s egg coating rendered the crust a little soggy but not unpleasantly so. The assertively spicy, super-sized poblano chile was overflowing with melted cheese and succulent, perfectly seasoned shrimp. If that weren’t filling enough, the pepper was accompanied by tasty Mexican rice, delicious refried beans, and two oval-shaped house-made flour tortillas hot off the grill.
Casa J stumbles a little when the menu wanders into Tex-Mex territory. CJ’s generously portioned nachos were covered in beans, queso blanco, grilled onions, your choice of meat or shrimp, crema, and Cotija cheese. Everything on the plate tasted fine, but somehow the elements that played together so nicely in the El Huarache were just not as impressive in the form of drippy, hard-to-eat nachos.
But no matter. You can order average nachos at half a dozen places within five miles. What you can’t always have is pozole (and it appears here only on Sundays). A whole fork-tender chicken breast swam in a rich, red, mildly spicy broth. A healthy side of chopped cabbage, radishes, and onions provided a DIY flavor system adaptable to different taste buds. The broth wasn’t as redolent of Mexican oregano as I’m used to, but everybody’s aubuelita has a different way of making posole rojo. The crunchy cabbage and the piquant bits of radish offset the fluffy hominy nicely. And the soup was served with your choice of flour or corn tortillas –– the housemade corn tortillas had an almost nutty flavor courtesy of the grill.
The restaurant is open for three meals every day, but the place closes in the early afternoon on Sundays. All the tables and the bar-top seats were full on my Saturday evening visit, but there was still a line to the door with people trying to be seated before closing or at least order something to go. The place is BYOB, but if you forget to bring hooch, there’s a grocery store next door. If there’s a flaw to Casa Jacaranda’s new Mansfield location, it’s that the building, which seats 42, is too small to house its already devoted following.
Shrimp chile relleno $13.99
CJ’s nachos $9.99
El hurache w/nopales $8.50