Veronica Meza with chile relleno and ribeye steak.
Veronica Meza is the daughter of Jalisco Taqueria founders Ampelio and Elena Meza. She has two ample platters, one with chile relleno and another with rib-eye steak. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Who among us has not had a late evening or early morning craving for great Mexican food? Happily, San Jose’s Jalisco Taqueria is there to serve, with a drive-thru open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with a wide selection of authentic dishes cooked fresh daily.

“I don’t know a lot of places where people can drive up and get a full-on plate of chile verde or enchiladas,” Veronica Meza, daughter of founders Ampelio and Elena Meza, told San José Spotlight. “Our drive-thru is 80% of our business and I don’t know what we would do without it.”

The complicated history of that drive-thru window begins in the Pink Elephant Shopping Center across the street, where in 1978 the Mezas opened the Pink Elephant Bakery. Every business in the center, by the terms of the lease, has to have “Pink Elephant” in its name.

A combination taco stand and VHS store stood where Jalisco Taqueria is now. When the lot came up for auction in the early 90s, the Mezas bought it and moved the bakery next to the stand, adding on a laundromat.

Taking over the stand in 1994, Jalisco kept it simple, serving just tacos and burritos. Ampelio, a butcher by trade, opened the Pink Elephant Deli on the other side of the bakery. In a small dining room, which Jalisco lacked, they began serving full meals like rib-eye steaks, along with tortas and other deli fare.

Rib eye steak. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Ampelio Meza is a butcher by trade and takes pride in the quality of the meat. His rib-eye steaks are well seasoned and tender. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“We tore down the taco stand and did a complete remodel in 2003,” Veronica said. “The menu stayed simple, but people would come in and ask for chile rellenos or a plate of something. We suddenly realized we were running two Mexican restaurants, so we brought all those dishes over here.”

During the remodel, Ampelio struggled with the city to get approval for the drive-thru window. It took a search through the old permits to establish the previous business had featured one, grandfathering it for Jalisco.

“Why would you not want a drive-thru?” Veronica said. “It’s that many more people to serve and its much more convenient for the customer. And my dad really wanted one. He said, ‘That’s what makes us unique.’”

Chile Relleno. Photo by Robert Eliason.
The chile relleno dish features a huge fire-roasted poblano chile stuffed with queso that is dipped in egg batter and fried. Photo by Robert Eliason.

What truly makes the restaurant unique, however, is the care they put into the dishes and their attention to recreating the authentic flavors of the Mezas’ Jalisco heritage.

The chile relleno, which starts with a huge fire-roasted poblano chile stuffed with queso (cheese) that is dipped in egg batter and fried. Topped with an amazing housemade cadillo sauce that pulls a good bit of heat from roasted serrano peppers, the combination of the fluffy egg, soft pepper and creamy cheese makes for instant comfort food.

Chicken enchilladas. Photo by Robert Eliason.
The chicken enchilada meat is lightly seasoned, roasted until tender and coarsely chopped to maintain some body. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Or the chicken enchiladas, which Veronica said is her go-to item on the menu. The meat is lightly seasoned, roasted until tender, then coarsely chopped to maintain some body. Wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, it is topped with a carefully crafted red sauce, which has a mild heat, a hint of garlic and a touch of sweetness.

“It’s basically a traditional sauce,” she said, “but we played around with it, adding a little bit of this and that until it became our family’s own recipe. People really seem to love it.”

Consistency of flavor is a critical concern at Jalisco, and the restaurant maintains its flavor profiles through a regime of daily tastings. The cooks try everything from the sauce to the dishes, as does a manager or other employee, to see if anything is off or missing.

Customer Jimmy Corova, who has been coming to Jalisco Taqueria since he was seven years old, favors the carne asada tacos. He said that Jalisco’s consistency is the reason he keeps coming back.

“I can’t explain it other than to say it’s delicious,” he told San José Spotlight. “Fresh carne, fresh tortillas, fresh everything down to the salsa. It is always the same great taste, never lacking in anything, and always has been.”

With Ampelio having been a butcher before opening the bakery, and continuing as one at the deli, the meat at Jalisco is a point of pride. You can taste the quality, particularly in the rib-eye steak which is seasoned perfectly and remarkably tender.

“Dad was not a chef when he started here,” Veronica said. “But he knew all about meat and we serve it just the way he cooked it at home. We hope preparing everything that way, like we had it when we were children, will make people want to come back.”

Contact Robert Eliason at [email protected].

Editor’s Note: The Biz Beat is a series highlighting local small businesses and restaurants in Silicon Valley. Know a business you’d like to see featured? Let us know at [email protected].

Jalisco Taqueria

Located at 401 S. King Road in San Jose

(408) 923-3436


  • Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. (dining room closes at 11 p.m.)



Note: Jalisco does not serve beer or alcoholic beverages.

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