If it weren’t for its eye-catching exterior, painted chili pepper red, you might not notice the boxy, ordinary-looking building on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Avenue. But the fiery facade beckons with a hint of what’s inside: a fiesta of fresh flavors.
Habaneros Mexican Grill has breathed new life into this plain building – a former fast food restaurant – by decorating the interior with vibrantly colored piñatas and painting the walls the color of sunshine. With upbeat Mexican music playing through the speakers and lively chatter among the customers, it feels like a south-of-the-border party inside.
Plus, Habaneros – which is family-owned and operated – is listed as one of the “10 Best Taco Joints in Missouri.” After reading that, I decided to give it a try.
I met my friend Carrie at Habaneros for lunch. The hostess handed us a multi-page menu that included fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tortas (sandwiches), salads, pasta (yes, even pasta), and the house specials. To say the menu was extensive would be an understatement.
Carrie patiently waiting for chips and dip while I snap her photo.
We munched on chips dipped in fresh salsa and guacamole while we perused the menu. Overwhelmed by the many options, I asked our waitress for recommendations. I was torn between the popular carne asada tacos and El Volcanito, a flour tortilla filled with chicken or steak, and topped with a creamy cheese sauce. Intrigued by its description, I ordered El Volcanito with chicken.
The stuffed tortilla was presented vertically rather than horizontally, and with the cheese sauce “exploding” from the top, it did look like a little volcano. My entree came with rice and beans, which were tasty, but the stuffed tortilla was the star of the plate with its fragrant cilantro, crunchy onions, and tender chicken. The ingredients were fresh and authentic, a combination that I always look for – yet don’t often find – when eating at Mexican restaurants.
Carrie, who is vegan, ordered corn tostadas topped with lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and guacamole. She was happy to find something so tasty that still satisfied her dietary needs.
During our meal, we watched several groups of people sit down for lunch, and others come in to pick up orders to go. The place was bustling.
However, no one was partaking of drinks at the bar, which was understandable considering it was lunchtime on a weekday. I imagine the bar stools are occupied at dinnertime with people sipping margaritas and Mexican beer.
The prices at Habaneros are very reasonable: our lunch entrees only cost $5-7 each. It’s rare to find authentic, fresh-tasting food at such great prices. That’s something worth celebrating.
So point me toward the piñata and bring on the fiesta!
Habaneros is located at 2526 E. 7th Street in Joplin; there is another location at 100 Lincoln Street in Carthage. Click here to visit Habaneros’ website.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.