What’s On the Menu? Jefes Is the “Boss” When It Comes to Variety

The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by the Longmont Observer.

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It was a Friday, the end of a long and hectic week, and we had a hankering for tacos and tequila. What better place to go, then, than a restaurant with both “tacos” and “tequila” in the name?

When Jefes Tacos & Tequila first opened in Longmont in 2016, it was actually spelled with an H—“Hefes.” That’s because the owners, who also own The Roost and had recently relocated from California, were afraid people would mispronounce Jefes as “Jeff’s.” But they soon realized that there are enough people in the area who understand Spanish—and who kept asking why “jefe,” which means “boss,” was spelled wrong—that they eventually gave in and changed the name (and the signs, and the menus) to Jefes.

We weren’t the only ones who were craving tacos and tequila on that Friday night. Although we arrived before 5 p.m., the bar seats were mostly taken, and the young lady who was standing by the podium when we walked in commented that we’d never find a spot, then she turned away to seat the couple who walked in after us. But we managed to squeeze in at the end of the bar, thanks to one helpful fellow customer who shifted over to accommodate us. The bartender approached us almost immediately with menus, but I had to inquire about a Happy Hour menu. “There are only a few minutes left in Happy Hour,” he said, seemingly as an explanation for why he didn’t give us one. “Right, so I’d better hurry,” I laughed, thinking that nine minutes should still be plenty of time.

I ordered the chips and salsa ($2 during Happy Hour, $3 regular price) and he said, “Oh, you’re in luck, we’re offering chips and salsa free all weekend.” They arrived promptly and we dug right in. The chips were nice and salty and thick enough to stand up to the salsa. I liked the taste of the salsa, but my companion said he thought it was bland. It didn’t stop him from eating it, though.

Paloma Bomba (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

To wash down our snack, I ordered a margarita. Although I normally opt for the house Rocks Marg ($5 during Happy Hour, $7 regular price, $9 double, $24 pitcher) when I visit Jefes, I was feeling adventurous on this night, so I went with the Paloma Bomba ($9), made with Blanco Tequila, fresh grapefruit, simple syrup, lime, and grapefruit soda. It came in a larger glass than the house marg, which was a nice bonus, and I enjoyed the grapefruit-forward taste. I probably wouldn’t recommend it for someone who isn’t a grapefruit fan, though.

Jefe’s Tequila Wall (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

For tequila connoisseurs, I would suggest choosing one of the dozens of tequila or mescal choices and letting the bartender craft a special, made-to-order margarita. Prices range all the way up to the extra anejo (“extra aged”) Patron Guillermo del Toro for $70—the name has two typos on the menu but I’m sure it’s worth the price if you want the really, really good stuff. I was happy with my Paloma.

JJefe’s queso (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

After munching on chips and salsa for a while, I decided that I couldn’t do without the Queso ($5 during Happy Hour, $9 regular price), made with roasted poblanos and garnished with chorizo, cotija cheese, and cilantro. I chowed down about half of it myself, then asked for a to-go container for the rest, which was enough the next day for both my breakfast burrito and my chips-and-queso afternoon snack. I think it’s my favorite thing at Jefes. Or I thought it was, until it was time to order tacos.

Every time I come here, I’m overwhelmed with the choices. I usually love the Street Tacos ($2.50 regular price, $1 at Happy Hour, $1.50 on Taco Tuesdays), which are a bit smaller than the other tacos on the menu and are made with a corn tortilla. For the other tacos, which are a little larger and filled with more goodies, you also get your choice of edible vessel—flour tortilla, soft corn tortilla, crunchy corn taco, or lettuce wrap. You can also ask that any taco be prepared “Jefes Style” for an additional $1; that’s jack cheese melted between two tortillas. The taco names are even color-coded on the menu: red type for meat, blue for seafood and green for veggie.

Bangin Cauliflower (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

Also, they had added some new tacos to the menu since my last visit, so it took me twice as long to decide. One such notable edition is the Bangin’ Cauliflower ($3.50), inspired by the popular appetizer of the same name from The Roost. This taco, which my companion ordered on a flour tortilla, has tempura-fried cauliflower pieces tossed in spicy Sriracha-citrus glaze topped with basil and pico de gallo. He enjoyed the taste but offered up the opinion that anyone who doesn’t like spicy things probably wouldn’t enjoy it. (Those who really like to spice it up, though, can head over to the “wall of hot sauce” and choose their favorite tongue-burners to sprinkle or pour onto their food.)

Hot Sauce Wall (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

To go with his cauliflower taco, my companion also ordered his perennial favorite, Chorizo & Egg ($4), with chorizo, potatoes, lime crema, and a sunnyside-up fried egg, but he ordered it without egg, causing the bartender and the guy next to us to express concern that he was missing out on the best part of the taco. He gets it all the time, though, because he really likes the chorizo and potato together but won’t go near a runny yolk. On this visit, however, he was disappointed to see that the potatoes were barely browned, not crispy at all like he prefers them. He also thought that there were fewer potatoes than when he had ordered this taco on a previous visit.

Crab Cake Taco (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

As for me, I decided to try one of the new tacos on the menu—the Chipotle Crab Cake ($5), made with Dungeness crab braised with peppers and herbs, plus chipotle crema, fresh cabbage, and pico de gallo. When it arrived, I was a little confused as to how to eat it, since the crab cake itself is fairly small, perched atop a large mound of cabbage. The bartender helpfully suggested that I break the crab cake apart with my fork and smoosh it around the whole taco, which I did. That worked, but first I had to remove some of the cabbage; it was just too much. Once I did that, I really enjoyed this taco, and I will give it a high rating for this visit. However, on a subsequent visit, just as I was about to order it again, I noticed that the one delivered to the diner next to me was very dark and crunchy, like completely burnt. I wasn’t in the mood to argue if mine came out that way, so I ordered something else, but I was bothered by the inconsistency.

El Gringo (Photo by Lisa Truesdale/ Longmont Observer)

For my second taco, I ordered a good old-fashioned ground beef taco on a crunchy corn taco shell—the El Gringo ($3.50), topped with sour cream, lettuce, cheddar and tomato. I appreciated how it was served in a taco stand so it stayed upright, crunchy and easy to eat. It tasted just like I expected it to—tasty, but not adventurous at all compared to other tacos on the menu. (My fault, I know.)

Throughout our meal, the staff was friendly and attentive, with every person who brought us our food or drinks inquiring whether we needed anything else, and then returning promptly with what we needed—more water, more napkins, a replacement fork for the one that clattered to the floor when I was bumped from behind.

On my scale of five forks, I thereby give the service 4.5 forks, with slight deductions for the hostess’ attitude and the bartender’s initial reluctance to see Happy Hour through until the end. I give the atmosphere 4.5 forks as well. The restaurant is long and narrow, so I know they can’t really help this, but the space between the bar and the high-top tables right behind the bar stools is so tight that I kept getting bumped into by employees and other customers—hence the fork falling to the floor—even with my bar stool tucked under the bar as far as it would go. For value, I give Jefes 4.5 forks (see a pattern here?); the Street Taco prices are pretty cheap, especially during Happy Hour, but $5 for a tiny crab cake atop a mountain of cabbage is a little high.

I might as well be consistent and give the food 4.5 forks as well. We didn’t like the non-crispy potatoes, my companion didn’t like the salsa, and I was disappointed in the inconsistency from visit to visit. But overall, the variety of tacos is astounding (all types of meat, some fish, many veggie and gluten-free options) and the flavors of the queso and the crab cake will keep me going back for more—as long as my crab cake isn’t burnt.

1 COMMENT

  1. Guys, keep up the good work, but PLEASE, when reviewing an establishment, PLEASE, give us the address. I’ve read a number of reviews and you rarely, if ever, include the address. Not everyone who reads your content is from Longmont and not every Longmonter keeps up with everything going on in town.

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