Mexican restaurants are my favorite, so I was excited when I got the chance to try the recently renovated El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant at the Destin Commons.

THE FOOD

I’ve taken a point in rating Mexican restaurants by their complimentary chips and salsa, and El Jalisco did not disappoint. Upon being seated, we were immediately presented with a basket of fresh tortilla chips and two small bowls of salsa.

We perused the menu and chose our appetizer and entrees and then realized we had not seen our server in some time, and hadn’t even placed our drink orders yet. We joked that maybe the kitchen wasn’t open yet as we chose to dine at 4 p.m., but actually we were surprised we had been waiting for more than 20 minutes without any service.

I assume the server felt bad for our long wait in a relatively empty restaurant because we were given a queso dip free of charge, another basket of chips and complimentary lemonades as soon as he returned.

We placed our orders right then. I chose a selection from the “Right Off The Grill” section of the menu — The Three Agmigos. My meal boasted steak, chicken and shrimp grilled with onions and served with Mexican rice, beans, tortillas and a side plate with all the toppings of lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream.

My guest chose a selection off the vegetarian menu — the chalupas. Her meal consisted of two fried corn tortillas topped with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole.

Our meals came out very quickly once we ordered.

I started right in on the shrimp and was pleasantly surprised. They were grilled to perfection with a delicious Mexican seasoning. The steak was also delicious, cooked with the same seasoning as the shrimp, and the only complaint about the chicken was that it was a bit dry. My meal was so large I got a to-go box and took more than half of it home.

As for my guest, she was surprised to find her chalupas were open-faced and a bit messy, however she said they were quite tasty.

For dessert we chose churros and flan, two popular choices for Mexican cuisine. Again it took some time for them to come to the table, so we decided to order them to-go.

Both desserts were amazing. The flan, a sweet creamy custard with caramel sauce, was delectable, and the churros were served up as six perfectly crispy golden-fried sticks of cinnamon-sugar goodness.   

THE ATMOSPHERE

The newly renovated bar is the focal point of the restaurant and the first thing you see as you enter El Jalisco.

Seating is arranged around the center and walls of the restaurant in tall booths with a row of tables in the rear. There is also outside seating available.

The kitchen is visible in the back of the restaurant through a glass wall, which added a nice feature.

Décor is modern, and the Mexican flare comes in with framed pieces on the wall and a few decorative elements throughout the restaurant.

The real atmosphere is brought in by the live musician. The afternoon we dined at El Jalisco, a vocalist stood in the dining room singing and dancing to salsa music completely in Spanish. It gave a great vibe to the place. My only concern was that once he started singing, I could no longer hear my guest across the table from me. My suggestion would be to dine outside if you are not one for loud music.

THE SERVICE

As previously mentioned, the service was slow, but that may have been due to the timing of our meal being between normal meal times. Our server seemed genuinely apologetic for our wait as he gave us a complimentary appetizer and drinks.

I would like to give them another chance closer to regular meal time.

A FINAL TASTE

The food was outstanding, and judging by the lines that normally spill out the doors during meal times, it must be a popular choice for Mexican cuisine. I will definitely be back for more of that shrimp and flan and maybe to check out the two-for-one margaritas.