Still without a favorite Mexican restaurant in the cities, we continued our search for perfect go-to spot: a low-key place with fresh chips and salsa, tasty Mexican food, and reasonable prices. Many friends had recommended the experience they had at Pepitos, so we ventured to the charming 50th and Chicago neighborhood to see if all the fuss was deserved.
Though Pepitos’ interior looked festive and spacious, we snagged a seat outside to enjoy the perfect July evening. Noting the menu’s advice to call 30 minutes ahead to sidestep a wait, we figured the large restaurant must fill quickly on a regular basis – a good sign so far.
The waitress brought a basket of chips and salsa and two mini glasses of water. While most tortilla chips can be forgettable, these were a step above. Crispy and not overly salted, the corn chips were thin enough for snacking sans salsa, yet sturdy enough for major dipping. The salsa sat in a small jar that had just been taken out of the refrigerator, so it was cool and refreshing, though the portion size was dainty. It was a bit saucy, but the hot version we requested did pack some heat. The zing seemed to come from a few shakes of crushed red pepper instead of vegetables or other spices – something we’re just chalking up to personal preference.
Jim ordered the Mexican Pizza, which turned a soft taco shell into an open-faced enchilada. On top of a tomato sauce sat machacado beef, fresh vegetables and jalapenos covered in melted cheese. I chose the Pepitos Tostada: a crisp tortilla piled with a homemade taco relish (which included pieces of pickles – an odd taste, but not bad once I determined what they were), lettuce, tomato, black olives, spicy pork and a handful of cheese. When the waitress brought our meals, we first thought she mixed up our order. My “small” $6 tostada took up most of the plate and was piled high with fresh vegetables and cheese. The $10 pizza in front of Jim looked like a small, open quesadilla snack – meat, veggies and cheese melted on top of a soft taco shell. The value of the two seemed drastically different. In Jim’s words, once the waitress walked away: “Tostada: win. Pizza: fail.”
Our food was tasty, even when surprised by the size, and the service was genuinely friendly. We’d support Pepitos again, especially to try other menu items and enjoy more of the Mexican style food we’ve grown to love. But value shoppers, beware: this isn’t the place for the stereotypically cheap Mexican dinner. If you don’t mind paying $5 for one taco instead of three, it’ll easily satisfy a Mexican craving – with fresh ingredients and plenty of flavor, to boot.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠1/2
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠
Total bill, including tip: $20