Jose and Sons
327 W Davie St #102
Raleigh, NC 27601
Relying on Instagram as source of restaurant information has its perks. You can scroll quickly through beautiful food pictures with clever captions, and you can judge by the sheer number of photos at a particular location whether or not you should pay a visit to a local establishment. While I read online reviews prior to a trip to a new restaurant, I also look at Instagram to see if the place has a signature dish that receives some photo love from the online community. After one of my friends told me about Jose and Sons, a Southern-Mexican fusion restaurant in Raleigh’s Warehouse District, I casually stalked them on Instagram and immediately developed a foodie crush on their chicharron and waffle dish. I vowed to consume this meal sometime during my graduate career, and this past weekend, I made the trek from Chapel Hill to Raleigh to fulfill my promise.
Located in the Raleigh Depot, Jose and Sons resides near Videri Chocolate Factory and Crank Arm Brewing, two of my favorite spots in the Oak City. Fingers crossed, I wanted my experience at Jose and Sons to be of similarly high-caliber, yet I tried to adjust my expectations because I have not been impressed with many Mexican restaurants in North Carolina. With its colorful, vintage décor, the restaurant itself manages to be fun and hip as well as sleek and stylish. The vibes were ideal for a Saturday girls’ night, and I held my breath, hoping the food quality would match the atmosphere.
Alana, our friendly server, arrived promptly at our table and offered honest recommendations about the extensive cocktail menu. I ordered the special Farmers Margarita ($10) that features tequila and orange liqueur alongside a seasonal addition. On my visit, raspberry served as the accompaniment to the standard ingredients, and it was refreshing, although a bit too sweet for my taste. My two friends each ordered a Public Margarita with a different seasonal ingredient: spicy grilled pineapple ($8) and fresh cucumber ($9). The spicy grilled pineapple was my personal favorite of the bunch; the charred fruit paired perfectly with a jalapeno to create an adventurous take on the classic. I do not care for cucumber drinks, so I cannot judge adequately the latter of the two, but my two friends seemed to enjoy it.
Much to my delight, the drinks were the least remarkable components of our meal. A native Texan, I have eaten enough Mexican food to develop a set of expectations the restaurant must meet to satisfy my personal culinary needs. Most importantly, if the salsa does not deliver a kick, I would prefer to make Tex-Mex or Mexican food at home. Jose and Sons makes their salsa in house, and it was the perfect combination of fresh and spicy. After passing our approval on to Alana when she returned to take our orders, she thanked us and explained that the servers are in charge of making the salsa each day. We ordered the guacamole tradicional ($6) to start, and it was almost as impressive as the salsa. Adorned with fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and pico de gallo, this appetizer delivered a burst of flavor. Needless to say, we took advantage of the complimentary hot chips to scoop up perfect bites of chunky guacamole and piquant salsa.
Fusion efforts tend to be hit or miss, but the start of our meal suggested that Jose and Sons took care to provide authentic interpretations of both Mexican and southern fare. I obviously ordered the chicharronn and waffles ($16) after lusting over its frequent appearance on social media, and I can say now that this dish absolutely lives up to the hype. Crispy pieces of pork belly “cracklins” adorn a thick, fluffy corn masa waffle. The serving of chicharrones is so generous that I could barely see the waffle or the drizzles of sriracha-agave syrup and basil-mint oil, sauces that add a sweet finish to this innovative take on the southern brunch favorite. Before I could dig in, Alana cracked two 62 degree North Carolina farm eggs on top of the pork belly, the runny yolks heightening the umami element of this delicious dinner.
The chicken flautas ($9) my friend selected could not compete with the culinary masterpiece I ordered. They tasted fine but did not differ from flautas I have had in the past. My other friend ordered the beer battered fish tacos ($15), which feature the Catch of the Day atop what appeared to be fresh corn tortillas. Jose and Sons deliver another star option here, as the local fish and produce provide clear North Carolina elements missing from the flautas. The only barrier preventing me from returning to Jose and Sons to eat these tacos is the 45 minute drive from Chapel Hill. Once the semester ends, I anticipate returning to this delightful spot for more chicharron and waffles as well as other successfully executed spins on two cuisines close to my heart.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.