REVIEW: Route 104

Magical things can happen when a timeless Mediterranean menu intersects with flavorful, Mexican homestyle cooking.

The quaint and spacious open-air dining room of Restaurant Route 104 is where that enchanting flavor fusion casts its spell. 

Filled with shining copper urns, cozy wooden tables, and ethnic handicrafts, it is a rustic hide-away, a place where birds sing in the late afternoon sun on the green garden patio, as the inviting aroma of freshly chopped basil wafts from the kitchen. 

Route 104 Restaurant in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, offers great service and charming ambience. But, as the true test is always in the tasting, it is the first-hand sampling of their lunch and dinner menu, billed as farm-to-table fresh, that casts the final vote in their favor.

Opened in November 2023, the establishment can easily be overlooked from the road; tucked back from the street, the entrance almost looks like a warehouse at first glance. But, appearances can be deceiving.

Stepping through the roughly plastered doorway reveals a charming hidden world, run by the Cabrera and Montez families, whose seven members take care of all operations. Their family tradition places great importance on rich food,  warm hospitality, and prompt service.

Besides typical soft drinks and cocktails, the beverage menu includes an extensive collection of wine from Mexico, California, New Zealand, Australia, France and Spain. The lunch and dinner menus, though not long, offer something for everyone, from simple soups and hearty sandwiches, to elegant full-course meals.

There are several salad options, such as brie salad with house vinaigrette, or spinach and fruit salad topped with sesame and poppy seeds. The seven appetizers include crepes stuffed with duck, tuna tartare in an avocado bed, and sauteed asparagus in pesto cream.

Though Route 104’s prices are a bit higher than the local average, they fully deliver on their promise of excellent quality and rich flavor.  Their lunch menu offers some north-of-the-border favorites. Their overflowing, pulled-pork sandwich is heaped with tender meat, cooked in a well-seasoned garlic sauce and served on a fresh poppy seed bun. Accompanied with fries and a fresh house salad, it makes for a substantial and satisfying lunch.

Other sandwich options include lamb burgers in yogurt dressing, sliced roast beef, BLT, as well as turkey and cheese.

Main course offerings include several classic Mediterranean fish dishes, such as salmon bathed in spinach-based cream, catch of the day in wine and saffron, or shrimp cooked in white wine and capers. Meat lovers can opt for the filet mignon wrapped in bacon, four pepper beef filet, pork loin, short ribs or duck confit.

The vegetarian ravioli is impressive.  The deep-dish pasta entree is abundantly stuffed with white cheese, cooked in a parsley, tomato and eggplant sauce, then flamed with brandy for a slightly smoky flavor. The dish comes elegantly plated, with a garnish of fresh basil and grated parmesan.

The dessert menu is simple yet elegantly indulgent, offering crème brûlée, chocolate mousse or a fruit jubilee served over ice-cream. Chocolate souffle is also available, if ordered in advance. The chocolate mousse comes decked with an artfully sliced strawberry arrangement, looking every bit as good as tastes.

Route 104.

Location: Chapala-Mezcala, Nicolás Bravo 14, Las Redes, 45900 Chapala, Jal. Phone: 33 1474 9345

Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads range from 100 to 260 pesos;  sandwiches from 140 to 190 pesos ; entrees from 235 to 370 pesos. Wine: 90 pesos per glass;  550 to 1380 pesos per bottle.

Details: Open Wednesday through Saturday: 1:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Sunday: 9 am to 2:00 pm.