^
Keep Houston Press Free
4
| Menus |

Jonathan Jones Brings Interior Mexican Cuisine to El Big Bad and It's Damn Good

It's Friday evening, just past 6 p.m., and chef Jonathan Jones is moving with ease behind the bar at El Big Bad downtown. He seems comfortable, happy. His mood is decidedly jovial, and he's telling us about the some of the daily specials he's running now that he's taken over as executive chef of the downtown gastro-cantina. They all sound mouthwatering.

"We have St. Louis Berkshire pork ribs glazed with a chile morita sauce," he says, as he describes how he's cooked them so that they're fall off the bone tender. I'm groaning, a sort of half-pain-half-pleasure sort of sound, and tell him: "That sounds so good."

In response, he gives me this confident grin, the one that tells me he knows it's not just good, but damn good, and says somewhat modestly, "It is. It's really good."

Sometimes confidence such as this is unwarranted, but in Jones's case, his goods measured up to the expectation: The ribs, covered in a chile-morita glaze that resembled a thick Mexican mole, and dusted with some sesame seeds, were fall-off-the-bone-tender, deep with flavor, and absolutely delicious.

Just one of a handful of dishes we had ordered on a recent Friday evening, when my friend Greg and I stopped in for a quick bite on the way to the theater, the ribs told me that Jones is back in the zone, cooking the food that he was meant to cook. Recipes that he'd developed for the late El Xuco Xicana (El XX), have been resurrected, like his famous pozole, which I didn't try, but I hear is as good as ever.

There were the chips and salsa -- hand-made, high quality salsas that are not (gasp!) served gratis, but are offered for reasonable charge. The salsas are the kind you'd find in Mexico, made fiery through the use of different peppers and spices. We received a red salsa, a green salsa, and a deep, brown-black salsa made with whole peppers, their sweet and spicy sourness reminding me a of the flavors of tamarind, yet bolder, spicier.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Then there was the stacked beef brisket barbacoa enchilada, something I'd never tasted before. Served in a shiny brown round casserole, to be cut up and served as you would a deep dish pizza, thick, gooey cheesiness combined with the hearty meatiness of the shredded brisket barbacoa in a way that was so decadent and tasty that I had what can only be described as a "foodgasm."

A daily special of BlackHill Ranch goat birria, a type of Mexican meat stew, also made a strongly favorable impression. Served with handmade tortillas, we scooped the meat and sauce into a tortilla and topped it with red onion and cilantro, eating it like you would a very juicy taco. The sauces may have dripped from my fingers, and there was no way to eat it in a ladylike manner, but man, was it good.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.