A long-standing favorite of locals, something about a brightly decorated Mexican restaurant with patterned woven textiles as table cloths exudes authenticity. Sombreros and paintings hang on the walls. Piñatas are strewn across the front of the restaurant. A Christmas tree with family photos and ornaments stands by the door.

Add to this an array of wet burritos and enchilada options—served in heaping portions—and the result is Govea’s Restaurant in East San Jose.

A long-standing favorite of locals, Govea’s proves authentic does not require being cramped into a dingy hole in the wall. The restaurant is clean, the atmosphere is vibrant and the customer service rivals restaurants of double the price point.

The pozole ($9.25), with a gelatinous pig trotter and hominy, comes piping hot in a large bowl and is a comforting dish for cold days. The satisfying carnitas wet burrito ($6.99), served with chile verde and sour cream on top, could feed two. Perhaps it was a mistake to order the Estrella combination platter ($12.99) for lunch, as one chicken burrito, a beef enchilada and a chile relleno all covered in red chile sauce, accompanied by Spanish rice and beans, seemed gluttonous. But no, there is never too much good food, especially with rice this soft and sauce this flavorful.

Govea’s customers expect good, home-style food. It says so in large painted letters on the window. What is surprising is the quality of service. My ideal experience at a restaurant is to feel attended to but not watched over, and Govea’s staff did just that. Food comes out at a steady pace. Water glasses are frequently refilled. We were seated at a table large enough to support the feast we ordered. The waitress, in her pressed pink shirt and black apron, took orders from the females first, then males, and offered to serve our starters first.

We opted to have our meal served as it was ready and nibbled on starters throughout. The side of carne asada fries ($6.99) were thick rounds of potatoes topped with carne asada, cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeno and guacamole. In true Govea’s fashion, the Tostada de Ceviche ($4.99), which sounded like a small scoop of ceviche on a chip, turned out to be thrice that size. The breaded and fried fish taco ($3.50) was fresh and had a tasty batter. As did the Coctel de Camaron ($10.99), or shrimp cocktail, which came with chunks of fresh avocado and plump, sweet-peeled shrimp.

Govea’s has earned its reputation as a local favorite in the densely populated neighborhood. The portions and prices make the meal a great value while the service goes the extra mile. And don’t miss the small dish of smoky chipotle salsa served with chips at the beginning of the meal.

Govea’s Restaurant
Mexican, $
1996 Tully Rd., San Jose