Back to Top

Jalapeno’s: Ada's Chipotle remake

Owner Julie Thomas, and employee Teresa Kramer create made-to-order burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salads and nachos at Jalapeno's Mexican Grill in downtown Ada. (photo/ Michelle Fronk)

Tucked into a nook on a crowded street, you’ll miss it if you drive by too fast. The unassuming brick structure unfortunately blends in with the surrounding buildings, forcing many passersby to take a second look. The burgundy canopy outside hanging over the entrance provides a single word: Jalapeno’s.

Walk into Jalapeno’s—but don’t forget to shut the door; they keep a running tally of times it has been left open—and you’ll realize the name isn’t just to catch a potential diner’s eye. It hints at what a customer will experience while dining—a rush of Mexican spices, a laid back atmosphere and food you can find yourself craving at 11 a.m. the night before an exam.

Once inside, you’ll see that hanging on the forest green walls are a painting of a cow, a cigar collage, a mosaic-style butterfly, an owl made of brightly colored lids and other odds and ends. It is all provided by a Lima artist and is available for purchase. In fact, four or five paintings have been purchased within the past year.

Professional artwork isn’t all that adorns Jalapeno’s walls, however. A slew of handmade signs are pinned behind the register. They range from supporting Super Bowl teams to “Free Autographs” to “Not for Wimp Taste Buds”. Look a little higher and to the left and you’ll see Jalapeno’s first dollar proudly taped to a beam that supports the menu. Jump back down to the wall and three pieces of student artwork hang there as well.

The employees’ dress is as laid back as the decorations with basic black as the clear theme. Ordinary black shirts and a black hat accompany their jeans and tennis shoes as they prepare the food. There may be the occasional ONU insignia or other miscellaneous symbol on their clothes, but you won’t see anything more attention- grabbing than that.

Although the atmosphere and dress of Jalapeno’s is laid back, there is one thing that absolutely is not—the food. The made-to-order burritos, nachos, quesadillas and burrito bowls are prepared right in front of the customer, and it is the customer who is in control. There is no standard burrito since each individual decides which meat, beans, salsa and toppings will be used.

Jalapeno’s clearly has a Chipotle-style feel to it, but one thing is different. The atmosphere at Jalapeno’s keeps its customers coming back for more. Julie Thomas, one half of the husband-wife team who own two Jalapeno’s restaurants, says patrons return because the workers care about the quality of the food. They aren’t concerned with simply pushing customers through a line and taking their money. Julie, as dressed down as the employees, manages the Ada location, while her husband Dave manages a store in Shawnee.

There’s only one way to know how you’ll feel about Jalapeno’s—experience it for yourself. Smell the spices, taste the food and enjoy the unusual artwork. Who knows, you might just fall in love with the unassuming brick building marked only by a burgundy canopy.

Jalapeno’s is located at 109 S. Main St. in Ada and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.