Food, Beer and a Race

Ignore the nearby chain, and enjoy the great eats and comfy atmosphere at Jalopy's

Pizza and burgers go hand in hand with a nice cold beer—and when the food is good; the service is friendly; and there are plenty of TVs for watching sporting events, it's a winning combination.

Yes, Jalopy's Grillville, at Oracle Road and Limberlost Drive, has all of the necessary components. But restaurants are often about location, location, location. In the same plaza as Jalopy's is BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse—also serving up burgers, pizza and microbrews.

The décor at Jalopy's is racing-themed, as you might imagine from the name, but without being too kitschy. There is plenty of racing memorabilia from the first half of the 20th century—both for display and purchase—and 10 or so TVs, most of which were tuned to NASCAR-style racing on our visits.

The food at Jalopy's was great. There is a large selection of burgers; sandwiches, both hot and cold; pizzas; and a few dinner entrées after 4 p.m. The Southwest beef-brisket hoagie ($9.29) with sweet-potato fries was a tasty combination of tender brisket, bacon, green chiles, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and a slightly spicy barbecue sauce. The Santa Fe patty melt ($8.49) was also tasty—a half-pound patty served on sourdough bread and topped with a generous amount of sliced jalapeños, guacamole, chipotle sauce and pepper jack cheese. Though it had good flavors, it wasn't very spicy, and could have used a bit more heat. The sandwiches are large and messy, but overall had great flavor combinations and were served nice and hot.

The sweet-potato fries were amazing. Usually, sweet-potato fries are either undercooked—leaving the potato sort of weirdly crunchy—or overcooked, leaving a greasy, soggy mess. These were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, and perfectly seasoned. Delicious.

The pizzas at Jalopy's are the other major attraction—and they are also tasty. Available in 12-inch or 16-inch sizes, and with thin or hand-tossed crust, they come in about a dozen combinations. You can also build your own. We opted for the "Hot Set-up," veggie style, which is basically a thin-crust, veggie supreme pizza ($11 for the 12-inch, $18 for the 16-inch), with mushrooms, black olives, onions, green peppers, spinach, roasted red peppers, diced tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese. (You can also add jalapeños at no charge.) Even with so many different veggies, the pizza was well-balanced, and the toppings were nice and fresh, with the exception of the mushrooms, which seemed to have been canned. Fresh ones would have been a nice touch.

We also sampled the other end of the meat-veggie spectrum and ordered the hand-tossed "Pit Fight" pizza ($11 for the 12-inch, $18 for the 16-inch), which features pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, brisket, jalapeños and roasted red peppers. The brisket was a nice addition, lending a little smokiness, and the sliced jalapeños provided the perfect amount of heat. Both the thin crust (not super-crispy thin, like at some places, but a half-inch or so of soft dough) and the hand-tossed crust were buttery and soft, though the hand-tossed seemed to have some additional, tasty seasoning.

The service at Jalopy's was extremely friendly and fast, although I can't say what it's like on a busy night, because the restaurant was mostly empty on both visits. The beer selection features lots of choices from Durango, Colo.'s Ska Brewing Co., and Jalopy's is working on brewing its own beers. There's currently only one house beer, a pilsner, on draft ($4.50 a pint). But the owner, Hal Burns, is a home-brewing enthusiast and hopes to add more soon. The pilsner was well-balanced, mild but with a rich flavor.

Jalopy's has just started a brunch from 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It includes a buffet for $6.99 as well as some additional breakfast items. Lunch starts at 11 a.m., and a few dinner items, such as chicken-fried steak ($9.99) and broiled mahi mahi ($11.99), are available starting at 4 p.m.

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