Reviewed by Barbara Chisholm, Fri., Oct. 15, 1999
Julio's4230 Duval, 452-1040
Mon-Thu, 8am-10pm; Fri, 8am-10pm; Sat, 9am-10pm
Julio's is a little neighborhood jewel tucked in among the restaurant crowd of Hyde Park Bar and Grill, Manga's, La Dolce Vita, and Mother's Cafe. What a treasure to the Hyde Park neighbors to have such an excellent, eclectic mix to choose from in this culinary intersection. Julio's offers simple Mexican fare based predominately on their spectacular rotisserie-roasted chicken.
Colorful art featuring chickens and a poster of dozens of varieties of fowl tips the diner off to the specialty of the house. Orders are taken at the cash register where several varieties of iced beers and sodas are available. I decided to go for the obvious and have the 1/4 roasted chicken special ($6.25), choosing the breast over the thigh and leg option. My companion was a vegetarian, so she opted for the vegetarian taco plate ($5.80), which featured a refried bean soft taco topped with cheddar and served with rice and grilled squash and zucchini.
The mahogany-colored chicken was meltingly tender, the wing released from the breast with the slightest application of pressure. The plump breast provided more than enough meat for the two soft and wonderful flour tortillas that came with the dinner. The chicken is marinated, then generously seasoned before it hits the rotisserie. The result is a flavorful bird, not at all spicy, but far from bland. The rice and beans have more attention paid to them than is usual. The pinto beans are whole, yet soft, and seasoned with pork and Mexican herbs. There is no chili in its preparation which results in a paler bowl of beans, but the flavor is not compromised at all by the lack of chili powder. The rice, too, is a cut above: fluffy and soothing and delicately seasoned.
The vegetarian taco was a satisfying handful, but its most surprising aspect was an accompaniment of thinly sliced half moons of zucchini and summer squash. The menu calls them "grilled," but they are apparently cooked on a flat grill rather than a ridged or wire grill, as there were no brown scorch marks typical of outdoor-type grilling. The care in their preparation was evident, though, as they were not too mushy (easy to do with delicate squash) and not too raw. Delicious. The veggies are also available as a side for $2.
Other menu options include breakfast tacos and migas, and variations on the chicken theme (including soup; I bet that is some fine stock!). Several of the usual suspects are present: enchiladas, fajitas, chalupas. And if the small dining room fills up, outdoor seating is available to view the interesting foot traffic courtesy of the nearby Fresh Plus grocer and other neighboring restaurants. Julio's genuine goodness, its simplicity, and its place in the charming neighborhood all come together to make it a little treasure for locals and for those who have to make the drive to get there.