First Look at Jimmy Changas

Categories: Restaurant News

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My regular camera is in the shop. You'll have to bear with me until then.
At 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the wait time at Jimmy Changas was already 45 minutes for a two-top. We tried waiting in the bar, but it, too, was jammed full of people. The smart ones had hovered near the stools, waiting for a couple to open up, before lighting on them and immediately ordering enormous plates of fajitas and cheese enchiladas. Everything looked very good, even if we were in Deer Park's version of Chuy's.

I wanted to go to Jimmy Changas because this brand new restaurant concept from the same owners of Gringo's and Bullritos is bound to go "chain" if they get it right...which I'm pretty sure they'll do. Should this location in Pasadena prove itself, prepare to start seeing Jimmy Changas pop up in other places around the city -- younger, more refined sisters to the older brother Gringo's Mexican Kitchens.

And the going is good so far: This is the former location of three failed restaurants, but so far the packed Jimmy Changas shows every sign that it's broken that curse, despite the fact that there are many things to dislike about the place. The food is cheaply and half-heartedly made and -- while some of it is very good -- it's mostly mediocre. The decor verges on garish. And then there's that wait.

But there's just as much to like: Extremely efficient and friendly service, populated almost exclusively by braces-clad high schoolers. Inexpensive prices. A kid-friendly atmosphere that manages to be adult-friendly at the same time, with great margaritas that are far fancier than one would expect. The food won't blow your mind, but it's almost beside the point here.

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The parking lot is just as big as the building itself. Massive.
Once we were finally seated, underneath the cathedral-like ceiling of the main dining room, we eagerly tore into the menu -- a 45-minute wait when you're already starving makes anything look good. My dining companion wanted to test Jimmy Changas' Tex-Mex eggrolls against their counterparts at Gringo's (many of the menu items are carried over from Gringo's, something which instantly puts people at ease).

The eggrolls were just as passable as they've always been, tasting almost exactly like the Chili's southwestern eggrolls save for a side of punchy chipotle dipping sauce that would've perked up a melted tire. Ditto the creamy green sauce with plenty of lime and cilantro that accompanied the chips; Jimmy's definitely gets its sauces right.

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Dinner was more hit and miss, however. We both ordered combo plates, so as to get a feel for as many menu items as possible in one visit -- the menu is vast and conquering it one dish at a time would take far more visits than my truck is willing to make to Pearland. My friend's Rio Grande was the better of the two, with tender beef fajitas and a cheese enchilada covered in chile gravy that would have been at home in the best temples of Tex-Mex. Even his guacamole was great, the kind of freshly-made stuff that makes you question why anyone would buy pre-made guac by the tub.

My Del Rio combo plate, however, was pretty dismal despite the promising presence of a tiny monkey head next to it on the menu. "Jimmy's Favorites," you have failed me. My seafood enchilada tasted like a used fishtank and the masa in my pork tamales was mushy, soggy stuff. The accompanying empanadas -- one filled with chorizo and one with cheese -- were so heavily gravid with grease that one bite turned me off food for the rest of the night. Luckily, I'd already eaten the good stuff -- the stuff my friend ordered.

But ultimately, I don't dislike Jimmy Changas, and here's why: This is the kind of place I would have eagerly looked forward to going to as a child. The kind of place I would have been excited to meet my friends at on a Friday night as a teenager. The kind of place I'd enjoy meeting up with other parents at as an adult, enjoying some inexpensive margaritas while the kids play on the playground. It's like Lupe Tortilla went to charm school, a cozy yet grandiose kind of place that will do quite well.

Is it worth the drive from Houston? Absolutely not. But if you're in Pasadena or Deer Park, it's a damn fine choice.

Location Info

Jimmy Changas

5144 Center St., Pasadena, TX

Category: Restaurant

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20 comments
weissinger11
weissinger11

The problem with your thinking the food was mediocre is that you ate the stupid tex mex meals. Anyone can do that.  I love the Diablo Dishes, the Polo Dorado and the fried avocado the best.  Give it another try. Oh and there is still a wait. 

pooter
pooter

I would have to rate the restaurant as a "10" on everything! I found NOTHING wrong. No long waits, service supreme, food on the table in a VERY timely manner, and on and on. Like I said. I give it a TEN with no reservations!

sue
sue

Believe it or not HP we do read you in Deer Park//Pasadena. The review was well put, we loved it but would not drive to Houston for it AND Deer Park/Pasadena is almost closer to downtown Houston than it is to Pearland ("my truck won't make it to Pearland")

Timelessproducts
Timelessproducts

Well put. We had a great time there due a lot to the company of friends and family but helped along by excellent service and good Tex Mex at family friendly prices. Will we go back--absolutely.

JohnSmith
JohnSmith

John, If you look at all the successful restaurants they all take a little from each other. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Name one original concept?

John121
John121

Houston press you like chuys,and loushy berrys hills tamales,you think thats good,lupes rest is a small house with the table rite next to you.

Phalange_regina
Phalange_regina

The reason so many people in the area like it so much is because they are typical suburbanites and never leave their little bubble. Through the grapevine I was told this was "an upscale" version of Gringo's, aside from the brand new decor there is NOTHING upscale about this restaurant. For the people in the area that don't have a refined palette or wide exposure to more affluent restaurants this is a like a night at The Plaza for them.

Too many similarities with Gringo's and I do have to agree with @John Davis, Gringo's and their whole little corporate clique have never proven to be original and this concept is pure proof.

Nice try, I prefer my 20 minute drive out of the burbs for a nicer restaurant.

Rjstatei
Rjstatei

Jimmy is a great addition to my favorite, Gringo's! I can't decide whether if it's just the food or what Gringo's continues to do for the community and their staff, that keeps me coming back?!? I'm thrilled to read their reviews and all the contributions they make to the area -- alot of other restaurants should take note!

Kyle
Kyle

I can't decide if the name is really annoying or really offensive, but it's something.

Bubba
Bubba

I think Jimmy Changas is the biggest thing to hit that area since the Starbucks opened up the street. =D

Jacqueline
Jacqueline

I think this resturant was very delicious and a nice addition to the Deer Park/Pasadena area!!! Kudos to the Gringo's owners...and most of "us" in this area love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Texasredtop
Texasredtop

We enjoyed our meal there on Tuesday at lunch. It was all very good. Our service was also very good. Manager stopped by the table when we were through eating and wanting our opnion on everything. I would never go to a restaurant that was so new that there were lines to be seated. That's just a recipe for a bad meal.

Feldman
Feldman

You forgot to mention the free soft serve ice cream you can get before, during and after your meal from the machine by the front door!!

John Davis
John Davis

I don't think the Gringos people have had an original thought in their lives. Their restaurants are knock-offs of other successful places with lousy food. I can't fathom why you might recommend anyone visit a place where a seafood enchilada tasted like a used fishtank.

If I wanted to go to Lupe Tortilla and I lived in Pearland, I'd go to the Lupe's at 288 and 518 rather than go to a rip-off of the concept that's poorly executed.

Maybe if they spent more time on the menu and less time on the "concept" they might open a restaurant I would eat at.

Texasredtop
Texasredtop

Maybe we should tell them all that it stinks so we won't have such crowds there. Everyone I know that has eaten there has loved it. I wouldn't say I loved it but I more than liked it. Can't wait to try the bacon-wrapped shrimp and the beef fajitas. The manager told me they use gulf shrimp which is a must for me when I eat shrimp.

JohnSmith
JohnSmith

John, If you look at all the successful restaurants they all take a little from each other. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Name one original concept?

Pancho
Pancho

You can still recommend a place if one portion of a dish is bad. No restaurant does *everything* great and if more things are better than worse, you can still recommend it.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Let me be clear: I think Jimmy Changas is absurd. But simple items like the fajitas and cheese enchiladas were good, and it's a nice place to go and take the kids if you need a night out and you live in Pasadena or Deer Park. Simple as that. ;)

Texasredtop
Texasredtop

My friends from Crosby loved it yesterday and said they'll drive back over to eat there.

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