Restaurant Spotlight: Dips and desserts dominate at Red Pepper Grill
by Brooke Carbo
bcarbo@annistonstar.com
Sep 10, 2013 | 2766 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Red Pepper Grill in Oxford serves up traditional Mexican food alongside signature dishes like the Chimchanga Red Pepper Grill (top right) and the Chimichanga de Chocolate (top left).  Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
The Red Pepper Grill in Oxford serves up traditional Mexican food alongside signature dishes like the Chimchanga Red Pepper Grill (top right) and the Chimichanga de Chocolate (top left). Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
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There are two schools of thought when it comes to Mexican cuisine. Some people like the tried-and-true, south-of-the-border comfort food — finely pureed salsa and chips for the table, the endless list of mix-and-match combination plates, washed down with a pitcher of lime green margaritas. And who can blame them? It’s not a bad way to spend a night out.

But there are some who prefer a more distinctive dining experience, even when it comes to traditional Mexican fare. Those two schools of thought come together at Red Pepper Grill.

The Quintard Mall restaurant reopened in March with a new menu under new ownership, and while traditionalists can still find their favorite combination of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas, not to mention the white cheese dip and nightly drink specials (except on Sundays, of course — it is still Oxford), diners looking for a unique TexMex experience will find plenty to get their taste buds salivating as well.

The strongest two arguments for not filling up on chips and salsa come before the meal and after. On the appetizers menu, forgo the traditional cheese dip — crazy talk, I know, but hear me out. Instead, try the Spicy Dip (cheese dip with jalapeños), or the Spinach Dip (cheese dip with spinach), or the Texas Dip (cheese dip with chicken, shrimp and steak). Or — are you ready for this? — the Supreme Dip (cheese dip with chicken, ground beef and beans topped with pico de gallo). Just when you thought Mexican cheese dip couldn’t get any better — am I right?

After the meal, spring for the Chimichanga de Chocolate. It’s a deep-fried tortilla-wrapped Hershey bar served with whipped cream, ice cream and, according to the menu, strawberries. Mine was served sans strawberries, but that realization didn’t occur to me until after the concoction had been devoured, which should tell you something. It’s like a s’more topped with whipped cream, which — let’s be honest — is the only thing s’mores were missing.

For the main event, may I suggest what I assume, based on its name, to be Red Pepper’s signature dish — and if it’s not, it certainly should be — the Chimichanga Red Pepper Grill. This deep-fried monster-size burrito/fajita hybrid comes to the table on a sizzling fajita skillet, a fried tortilla covered in cheese and ranchero sauce and generously filled with your choice of grilled chicken or steak on a bed of sautéed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. It’s served with a dish of fajita-like sides including refried beans, pico de gallo and a guacamole that this non-guacamole eater can happily describe as not too avocado-y.

The dish is substantial enough that it can easily be split between two people but not quite so enormous that you’ll feel gluttonous ordering one just for yourself — as I did. On a date, no less.

The Chimichanga Red Pepper Grill is not the only dish on the menu to share the establishment’s name and if the chimichanga is any indication, the Red Pepper Salad — black beans, corn, purple cabbage with steak or chicken — will be next on my list to try. Or the ultimate combination plate, the Red Pepper Tour, although I’ll probably wait for a girls’ night out to order that one.

Assistant Features Editor Brooke Carbo: 256-235-3581. On Twitter @star_features.
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