Scene in South Bend: Jesús Latin Grill
Kay Bontempo | Thursday, February 7, 2019
The creative minds behind Evil Czech Brewery and Corndance Tavern have ventured into new territory with Jesús Latin Grill, a uniquely inspired Latin-fusion restaurant — but if you’re expecting typical chips and salsa or Chipotle-esque burritos, look elsewhere. The new eatery isn’t afraid to move past the classics, instead taking a fresh approach to Latin American cuisine.
Located in Mishawaka — but still a quick drive from campus — the restaurant announces itself with a massive “Jesús” sign studded with golden lightbulbs. In appropriate hipster fashion, owner George Pesek opened Jesús in the long-defunct Carnegie Library building. The interior is well-lit and equally trendy, with exposed brick walls and low-hanging light fixtures. It’s not a place for quiet conversation — the music was more “discoteca” than dinner vibes, but reggaeton fans will feel right at home.
Jesús belongs squarely in a separate category from student mainstays like Salsa’s and Hacienda in that the food is much more of a focus than the drinks — but if you did come to get tipsy and are of legal age, have no fear. The classic margarita is delicious and amply sized, while the specialty margaritas are some of the best in town. The spicy poblano “mezcalrita” boasts a strong smoky flavor with a kick from jalapeño peppers, and despite being made with real mezcal, is actually a dollar cheaper than the classic. Fans of sweeter cocktails can opt for drinks flavored with cachaca (sweet rum) or tamarind juice.
The menu integrates influences as diverse as Mexican, Venezuelan, Argentinian and Puerto Rican cuisines into an impressive list of offerings. Those looking to save money should stick with tacos or tortas, but if you’re willing to splurge for a date night (or have family paying the bill), go for a specialty dish: either one of the Latin American classics, or something off the Argentinian wood fire grill.
Service was quick, with our beautifully arranged dishes arriving not long after the margaritas we ordered. Every meal I’ve tried so far at Jesús has been great on its own, but the best way to enjoy this place is with at least one other person, sharing drinks and dishes to fully experience the range of flavors it has to offer. I ordered the cochinita al yucateca, a pork tenderloin dish complemented by chimichurri sauce and Mayan rice with a sweet corn tamale side dish. My date opted for steak: a “saltado” filet medallion served with onions and deep purple Peruvian potatoes. Both were delicious, though the steak wasn’t quite hot in the center. One of the restaurant’s strengths lies in its unusual and delicate flavors; the chimichurri sauce layered on the cochinita was made with pineapple, and the banana leaf in which the dish was prepared lent all the components a sweet, authentic tang.
Jesús is still relatively new compared to Evil Czech or Corndance, and rising in popularity; even on a Friday night, the restaurant was filling up, but had less than a five-minute wait. Based on the quality of the experience, however, don’t expect that to last too long. For your next birthday, squad dinner or taco Tuesday, look beyond Eddy Street and head to Mishawaka for a meal that will not disappoint.
Jesús Latin Grill is located at 122 North Hill Street in Mishawaka and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.