Jolina Tex Mex Kitchen & BBQ

Jolina occupies a great uptown location on South College Street. It sits adjacent to Fuel Pizza — part of the same restaurant group — and is surrounded by trendy new office and apartment blocks. Given this, one would expect the place to be buzzing 24/7. Unfortunately, when we went it was empty. Nervy and suspicious is how I feel when walking into an uninhabited restaurant during peak time, which in our case was 6:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Despite this, I am happy to forgive them; midweek can be very iffy.

Anyway, the tree-canopied courtyard looked very inviting, so we chose to sit outside. I ordered a standard: chicken fajitas ($9.95), while my wife ordered their Texas Hash ($9.95), which was comprised of Mexican rice with shrimp, chicken, chorizo and corn — very, very good.

I might be teetering on the edge of pickiness here, but found that my fajitas side plate of black beans, rice, grated cheese and tomato salsa had been sloppily plated. All the food had drifted over to one edge, and had become mixed and messy. If you’ve ever been to culinary school or watched one of the TV kitchen shows, you’ll know about the number of lecture hours dedicated to plate presentation. There’s just no excuse, even from a chain.

As the meal progressed, the piped outdoor Mexican music began to grate on my nerves. Even though we sat outside, the frantic up-tempo beat forced me to bolt my food, leaving me feeling rushed and agitated. I completely understand the tactic of using music to turn tables quickly during busy times, but not when the place is empty.

The kids, by the way, were having a great time. They tucked into their cheese quesadillas and fries with gusto, and their wild-berry frozen drinks ($2.20 each) were the best.

You must take my criticisms here in context. Our check for two adults and two children amounted to just under $50, which included three Corona beers, but not the tip. Good value, I would say. In the end, the proof, of course, is whether we would go again. The answer is probably yes.

The Chow Down

Dollar deal: Tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas all around $4.50
Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid a wait: Go midweek around 5-6 p.m.
Noise level: If they’re busy, expect things to be up-tempo
Décor/Atmosphere: Modern Mexican/vibrant up-town
Kiddie fare: Chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas
Anything healthy on the kiddie menu?: Grilled veggies
Parent fare: The house specialty, Texas Hash is excellent. Fajitas are good, too.
Bathroom amenities: Good
High chair/booster cleanliness: Good
Got milk/juice?: Juice
Address: 500 S. College Street in Charlotte
Phone: 704-375-0994
Web site: www.therestaurantgroup.com
Overall rating: 3 out of 5