Ah, Winter Park. While I still have certain reservations about the area (everything is expensive, the vibe can be a little snooty) I have to admit it’s growing on me. And when you step off Park Ave. there are some real gems to be found in this foodie-friendly neighborhood north of Orlando.
One of those gems, Pepe’s Cantina, was recommended to me by my friend Arlene (who is also an Orlando blogger – check her site out) after she saw I was starting up a taco series. We decided to meet up there for lunch and, you know, “research.” Tacos: the great connectors.
First up: chips and salsa talk. I have to admit, the salsa threw me off because I expected it to be a typical spicy salsa. But Pepe’s salsa is more like the love child of classic salsa and pico de gallo. It was still good, just not what I was expecting. However, I wasn’t concerned much with the salsa as my research informed me the guacamole (made table side) is Pepe’s main draw.
Our server, Jesus, confirmed my suspicions and with expert sales techniques he got me to buy a $9.50 bowl of fresh made guacamole for myself. Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to convince me to buy guacamole. (For taco blogging, I spare no expense.)
Although I make guacamole at home all the time, it’s still fun to see it prepared fresh and as everyone preps their guacamole a bit differently, I guess it counts as education too. Right?? Pepe’s is generous with the lime juice lending a bright, citrusy taste. I had a hard time forcing myself NOT to shovel it all into my mouth at once but had to pause to ensure there was room for tacos.
Tacos – the star of the show! Arlene and I decided to visit on Tuesday (Taco Tuesday best day of the week) especially since Pepe’s advertises that tacos are just $2.99 on Tuesdays. Unfortunately upon arrival I learned that only applies to the shredded chicken and beef tacos. But oh well – a plate containing rice, beans, and 2 tacos (you CAN mix and match your tacos) is $10-12 which is pretty average. Pepe’s also has homemade corn tortillas which are delicious! I went with the Al Pastor and a Shredded Chicken.
Side note: I also ordered a Spicy Mango Margarita and enthusiastically recommend it. Yes, it added another $9.5 to my bill. But it was worth it! Pepe’s makes this margarita with mango puree, tobasco, and chili powder. The rim is also dusted with chili powder. It was only slightly spicy and so unlike any other margarita I’ve had before. A+ choice for lunch.
The Al Pastor was my favorite. Pork, picked red onion, cilantro, grilled pineapple…it’s a perfect blend of summer flavors. The shredded chicken was also very good with the highlight being the queso fresco topping. Cheese, tacos, guac, booze and I’m a happy taco loving girl.
Overall, I found the tacos a little small and light on the meat but I still think they are worth the price for the quality and taste. And we are in Winter Park after all, so I expected slightly more expensive prices.
The verdict? Give Pepe’s a try! While on the pricier side, the ambiance is great and the portions are spot on. Go with a few friends so you can split the guacamole, and stick with just chicken or beef tacos on Tuesday to save some money. Pepe’s gets the Steph’s Taco Blog stamp of approval. (They also gave me a free bumper magnet for my car so complete strangers can now be aware that I love tacos, thanks Pepe’s!)