Don Pedro's Cafe is Still Getting it Right
Don Pedro’s Café has to be among the area’s longest-running dining establishments. It had been a while for me since eating there. My family and I went on a recent weekend. Aside from a few changes in decor, the café looks very much the same as it always has, though the menu does appear to have more items.
Don Pedro’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and does not take credit cards (there’s an ATM on the premises). We were given a dinner menu, so you’ll have to try breakfast on your own. Last time I ate at Don Pedro’s, I had their excellent Cuban sandwich and would gladly order it every time. By an act of sheer will, I tried something else this time.
The café offers a roughly L-shaped dining area, with booths, freestanding tables and some seating outside on a patio. The walls are painted a light salmon/orange color, and are decorated with brightly colored paintings. There’s a counter, a beverage cooler and a window for the kitchen to send out food.
I heard plenty of cheerful chitchat, Spanish and English, among the staff, and most of our fellow customers—dining in or picking up orders—seemed to be regulars. The Tiny Diner made her usual hit with our female server, a trick she accomplishes by smiling or giggling (I mean the TD, though our server was pretty happy, too). We were given a basket of corn chips and salsa, and menus.
Don Pedro's dinner menu offers four closely-typed pages, with appetizers, dinner salads, Mexican-style Gulf seafood, fajitas, dinner combinations, tacos and taquitos, Mexican classics, burgers and sandwiches, plus a kids' menu. They also serve beer and wine.
We started off by splitting an order of nachos supreme. A standard on many Mexican menus, nachos are often a case of too much of too much. Don Pedro's offers a full plate, but keeps the ingredients in balance, so that the toppings—ground beef, cheese, salsa, jalapenos and sour cream—kept their individuality, rather than just collapsing together into a gooey mass. Even TD ate some, bypassing the peppers in favor of the meat and cheese.
Other starters include cheese dip, bean dip, guacamole, fried zucchini with cheese dip, fried green tomatoes, fried mushrooms, cheese-stuffed jalapenos, and hot wings.
For the main course, my wife ordered a Guadalajara combo, a pork tamale, hard shell beef taco, with rice, beans pico de gallo and sour cream. I got three taquitos pastor, with slow-roasted pork, pineapple and onion. The server asked if I wanted American style (flour tortilla, tomatoes and sour cream) or Mexican style (corn tortilla, onions and cilantro). I chose the latter. I had had sour cream on the nachos, and a little is plenty for me.
Good choices. The pork was tender and flavorful, and the sweet/tart pineapple and tangy cilantro were a perfect balance for its richness. The sides were rice and refried beans with cheese, but the tacos were definitely the star of my plate. My wife's tamale came wrapped in a corn husk, and the filling was likewise tender and savory. The beef taco drew the TD's interest as well—as far as she's concerned, beef is always what's for dinner.
Other dinner options include shrimp, chicken, and shrimp taco salads, chef's salad, shrimp or chicken a la Diabla, grilled fish, seafood or chicken chimichangas or enchiladas, seafood (and other meat) burritos, fried or sautéed seafood combos, combination plates with steak, fish, sausage, and chicken, chiles rellenos, steak or chicken tacos, carnitas, fajitas with steak, chicken, pork, shrimp, fried fish or combinations thereof, and a long list of Mexican fare including quesadillas, flautas, carne asada, ribeye steak, burgers, and Cuban, Mexican and “Loco” sandwiches. Many of the above can be ordered with different combinations of proteins.
Interestingly, there were just two desserts—flan and fried ice cream. I expect most people are boxing up part of their meals at that point, but we were careful to eat everything first, then order the flan. The caramel custard was creamy and not overly sweet, with an almost cheesecake-like texture. The serving was big enough for two, with several spoonfuls for the TD. She really took to it, so I may have to learn to make it.
You may not have been to Don Pedro’s recently, passing it by in favor of the latest dining thing. There’s a reason it’s been around all this time. Finding out why is as easy as...flan.
by Bruce Collier, Courtesy the Beachcomber