Finally checking Pepe’s off my ‘must-try’ list felt like an accomplishment since this strip mall find isn’t a place I pass on my day-to-day commute. Pepe’s has a seat-yourself dining area and doubles as a fully stocked Mexican grocery store. I was instantly drawn to its festive flair: a stack of sombreros, oversized piñatas, colorful wall murals and blaring music, all helping to set the mood.
Our group of four grabbed a booth and ordered a bucket of Negra Modela beers (6 for $15). We eagerly worked our way through a complimentary basket of thick, crispy tortilla chips and standard-fare salsa which was seemingly void of cilantro but heavy on the garlic.
Pepe’s has a broad menu with exceptionally low prices. Tacos (corn or flour) are cheap, ranging from $1.50 to $2.25. We chose the more authentic preparation (corn) on our three-taco platter ($6.99), served with rice and refried beans. The lengua, or cow tongue, was the best of the tacos. My grandmother’s iteration was my first introduction to cow tongue, so I was pleased to find Pepe’s lengua cooked correctly (not overcooked, which causes it to be tough) and served with diced onions, generous cilantro sprigs and lime wedges. The chicken taco was good, yet the pork carnitas left something to be desired. It was dry and unremarkable. Surprisingly, the refried beans and rice included in the platter were well-seasoned and full of flavor.
Standouts were the chile relleno platter ($7.99) and chicken sopa ($2.99), a savory corn cake topped with shredded chicken, lettuce, sour cream and cheese. The chicken torta ($4.99), a Mexican sandwich, was another winner, with its soft bread, juicy breaded chicken, thick smear of mayo, shredded iceberg, sliced tomato, onion, pickled jalapeno slices and creamy avocado.
Service (read: one waitress for the entire restaurant) was slow, so skip Pepe’s if you’re on a schedule. If you have time, though, definitely take in the ambience and sit back with a cold cerveza or two. And for $59 for the four of us, including beers, Pepe’s can’t be beat.