By popular demand - we visited Pepe's Hacienda Y Restaurant
the spot widely reported to be Jacksonville's best (and most authentic) Mexican restaurant.
While we don't pretend to have eaten in every single Mexican restaurant in the county, we have sampled more than the average bear, so when a claim such as this one comes along, we had to check it out!
Lo and behold - what we found at Pepe's was all that AND a bag of churros!
Pepe's is not just a restaurant, mi amigos...
It's a fiesta. A bakery, a tienda (that's a market to us gringos), certainly a taqueria, an incidental community center. Pepe's is THE destination at Dupont Station.
The tienda at Pepe's has a great selection of a variety of peppers - fresh, dried whole and ground, plus plenty of herbs and produce that you won't find at the local supermarket. Prices are great - in the market as well as the restaurant.
Pepe's has a decent sized dining room, and its always bustling. A family friendly place, Pepe's serves straight-forward Mexican favorites like Tacos and Burritos, Tortas, Enchiladas and Chiles Rellenos.
My favorite are the Carnitas - tender chunks of shredded pork served on a steamed corn tortilla, garnished simply with white onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
Barbacoa (beef head) has an assertive flavor, and Pastor (marinated pork) is slightly tart and not too spicy.
The Chiles Relleno are whole poblano peppers, stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried, then served in a red sauce. The menu calls them spicy, but really they aren't. What they are is delicious. Eggy batter gives way to a soft, slightly sweet freshly roasted pepper, and the salty tang of melted cheese. I'll never make them with Anaheim peppers again after tasting these made from poblanos. Extra sauce is served on the side so your pepper isn't too mushy when it is served.
Everything we've tasted so far has been good. The service is friendly, the food is prepared quickly and the value is out of this world good.
Tacos are just $1.75 each, and they are brimming with filling. Three for $4.99 and an Agua Fresca (flavored waters are a specialty of the house) for $2 make for a plentiful meal at less than eight dollars. Add a Postre (dessert) like silken, creamy flan for $1.50 and you're still getting out the door for around ten dollars.
We get ours to go and shop in the market while we wait. Its a great place to stock up on the staples of Mexican cooking. Warning - the smells emanating from that takeout container are enough to cause you to pull over in the nearest parking lot and "sample" everything before you can make it home.
The place is always buzzing with activity - so if you are in the mood for really good, simple, authentic Mexican fare served with Latin flair, or if you're looking for something kicky to wear, hit the trail and head to Pepe's Hacienda! Make sure you come hungry, and bring a friend - Nancita comes to mind!
Pepe's Hacienda & Restaurant
(904) 636-81313615 Dupont Ave Ste 900
Jacksonville, FL 32217