If restaurant openings were a disease, the number of new Mexican restaurants downtown and Midtown might be considered an epidemic.
The Complex is chiefly known as a bar and live-music venue, featuring the city's hippest alternative acts. But it's also the site of El Pollo Grille and Mexican Cantina. Bert Jamboa opened the Complex three and a half years ago and since then has worked on adding a kitchen. Although he says that the restaurant is still a work-in-progress, it's open and serving standard Mexican fare -- burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and the like -- as well as all-American and all-Mexican breakfasts, which means you can get your short stack or L.A.-style huevos rancheros. The restaurant is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
El Pollo Grille and Mexican Cantina, 704 Madison (692-9211)
Another hidden treasure can be found inside the Comfort Inn on Front Street. Sgt. Jalapeno's Tortilla Factory Co. is a Tex-Mex family affair. Melissa and Victor Ortiz opened the restaurant in mid-December, temporarily abandoning Ortiz Tortilla Company, their Southaven restaurant.
"We are still making our own tortillas. We only closed the restaurant in Southaven temporarily," says Victor.
It's not just homemade tortillas at Sgt. Jalapeno's. It's homemade everything. The Ortizes moved here from Brownsville, Texas, where they operated Zelda's Bakery, which specialized in Mexican pastries. When they came to the Memphis area in 1999, they brought along the flavors of South Texas and their concept of "food fast fare."
Food fast fare? It's hard to explain but mouth-watering nonetheless. Try Sgt. Jalapeno's smothered burrito, a 12-inch flour tortilla filled with Spanish rice, lettuce, tomatoes, your choice of meat, smothered with red sauce and topped with olives. It's yours for $7.95.
The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Sgt. Jalapeno's Tortilla Factory Co., 100 N. Front St. (526-0583)
Transplanting a little patch of their Mexican hometown of Guadalajara to Memphis is what Andreas Flores Jr. and his dad had in mind when they opened Quinto Patio on Beale Street across from the New Daisy Theatre. The restaurant serves traditional Mexican food for lunch and dinner, as well as Italian standards -- a holdover from the restaurant's former tenant, New York Pizza. A full bar will be available once the liquor license is in place, and a patio for outdoor seating is in the works as well.
The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Quinto Patio, 345 Beale St. (523-7288)
Rio Loco's opened last week in the old Buckley's space about a block west of The Peabody. You can try their jumbo lime margarita for $6 during happy hour from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. Or you can stop by for one of the daily lunch specials and get a demi-margarita, the jumbo lime's little brother, which costs only $3.
Rio Loco's is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Rio Loco's, 117 Union (523-2142)
Also opening: Las Margaritas Mexican Bar and Grille next week inside America's Best Inns & Suites at 1837 Union; Garcia Wells Southwestern Grill in Overton Square this month; Happy Mexican Restaurante & Cantina next month at 385 S. Second St.; and Qdoba Mexican Grill at Poplar and Holmes in April.