Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paco & John

Back in my heyday of dining at every taco cart, hamburger joint and catfish barn I would show my friends different places and every so often I got a peculiar response. One or two of the friends who were told about a secret little restaurant or a small dive, would get all excited until they actually saw the place. I think they wanted a dive that had been commercialized and cleaned up. Like a Margaritaville bar on a beach in the Caribbean. For all of those people, I have a compromise.

I'll give you Mexican food, prepared under the careful review and coordination of a talented cook and a French chef, if you'll eat it in an old gas station that still has the wall of refrigerators on one side. Deal?

So, you faux-adventurer, get your Eddie Bauer Expedition loaded up with plenty of gas and update your GPS for a "crazy" trip into dive territory. Don't forget to tell somebody where you're going in case you don't come back....

On 8th Avenue, just south of Rosedale (west side of 8th), sits an old gas station with no pumps. Bernard Tronche, of Saint Emilion fame, and his long-time friend have converted this old store into one of my favorite new places in Fort Worth and definitely one of the best deals. After providing high end French food for his West side peeps (holla Bass family!!), Bernard decided it was time to provide the rest of us with some of his delicious fare. But of course, nobody is going to go to a gas station to eat snails, so he took the care and skill used in preparing high quality French food, and made high quality, yet affordable Mexican food.

Paco and John's has traditional and authentic Mexican dishes (no ground beef enchiladas with velveeta sauce). You can order a traditional street taco, the enchiladas of the day, tortas, one of the daily specials and many other items. I have now been for breakfast and lunch (the only times they're open right now) and can honestly say that after you go, you will all ruin this place for me because I'll never be able to get a table again.

The inside has obviously been worked over a little since it was a convenience store. There are no more shelves or aisles. The area where the clerk used to stand, clutching a shotgun, has been replaced with a kitchen area which is open to the restaurant, and then there's the French guy standing there. That's new. But the refrigerators on the back wall are still there and they pull double duty of storing supplies and showing off the bottles of coke. Yeah. Bottles. So, those of you on our faux-adventure, you can tell everybody how quaint this place is based on my description.

On to the food.

The chilaquiles at breakfast came in a bowl and were a deep rich red color, topped with perfectly prepared strips of steak. It was hot and spicy, but not enough to make you stop eating. And, in a surprising twist to restaurant dining - the portion size was not overdone to compensate for lack in flavor. I also have to comment on the coffee. They may not use a fancy coffee, but it tasted good and it came in a nice clean mug so I felt like I was getting something high end. A breakfast for two with coffee for both including two orders of chilaquiles was about $15.

I have also been several times for lunch. In those trips I had a salmon torta, a beef fajita taco, flan, and the pork carnitas torta, in order of awesomeness. For those of you on a health binge, get the salmon torta without mayo and don't eat your fried potato sticks. Or go somewhere else. The bread on the tortas is soft, the salmon was well prepared and the portion is large enough to fill you up but not so large that you go nap at work. The beef fajita taco was also delicious with onions and bell peppers in a soft tortilla.

I don't recall eaitng a lot of flan growing up, but I had it when I was joined at lunch by my friends, the brunette bombshell and his wife, Tara. The brunette had the taco plate and he said it was delicious though he refused to share. Tara had the enchilada plate and confirmed what my previous visit with my long haired friend said, "this is so much better than my friendship with you." Fair enough. I don't come with a side of rice and beans so how can I argue?

All of the food I have had at Paco and John's has been expertly prepared and delicious. I thought the carnitas on the torta were a bit greasy but according to the brunette, on a later visit, they weren't as greasy on the tacos so maybe it was just that day. It has also been reported that the queso poblano soup is delicious. You can tell that the restaurant takes pride in its food and is working to draw you back. Plus, for all of you on the faux-adventure, its clean.

So, its a dive because its in an old gas station, except that its been remodeled to look lovely on the inside; the food is delicious and very well prepared, but its a version of Mexican street food; and its run by the chef of the top Fort Worth French restaurant on the west side, but its just south of downtown. Oh, and there's almost no parking so you feel like you're going to a special place that's always crowded.

If you've been reading this blog for the past 20 months and have sat on the sidelines about visiting some of the places because you're scared, don't be scared now. Your friends will think you went to a cool dive, but you'll secretly know that you went to one of the best new restaurants in town.

I have heard they will be extending their hours at some point to include dinner, weekends and a brunch. Right now its BYOB but they may be selling drinks soon.

Paco and John, Mexican Diner is lcoated at 1116 8th Avenue, just south of Rosedale. Parking is scarce. There is a convenience store that sells beer immediately to the south of the restaurant so stop in there for beer or wine first.

Let me know what you think.

Paco and John Mexican Diner on Urbanspoon


Kevin Buchanan said...

As a resident of the area, I can say that there is absolutely no reason for anybody to be worried about coming to the Near Southside to enjoy Paco & John or any of our other outstanding restaurants - it is a perfectly safe part of town these days.

Great review, as always. Hope I can get the chance to get over to the place when they're open.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Kevin, I absolutely agree and hope everybody realizes that any comments made about the safety of that area are purely intended as jokes. But I know many people who would consider it an adventure to go to the southside.

Thanks for reading.

Michael Bourgon said...

I definitely wish them the best. I've seen a lot of restaurants go through that location, so I hope they make it. Hopefully hospital lunch traffic will be their savior. Will have to go Sat.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Michael, when I was there for lunch it was always busy so hopefully they'll stay afloat. Their prices are so reasonable that it should attract a large crowd.

But I don't think they're open on Saturdays just yet. If I am wrong, please let me know.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

I have just been corrected. Paco and John are now open on Saturdays and plan to open for brunch on weekends very soon.

Great news!

Stephanie said...

OMG! Are they really open on Saturday now! I've been wanting to try their vegetarian tacos ever since they opened, but can't make it because of their hours. I will have to make it over there some Saturday now. I hope they add dinner hours sometime soon.

Hank Scorpio said...

I have been to this place twice because of this recomendation. Once for lunch during the week and then once for breakfast on Saturday. Got the cheese enchiladas for lunch and the migas for breakfast. Both were fantastic and reasonably priced. I will be a regular there!

Don Birnam said...

The breakfast is really good. I've stopped by a couple times and had the trout and eggs, the eggs divorciados and a salmon burrito, all of which were fantastic.

For lunch I usually get tacos but the tortas are so good, too. I'd recommend pork carnitas or salmon tortas. Also the daily specials are nice.

I can't wait for them to get their patio in order.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Paco and John guys, heads up. Everybody is digging your place so expect crowds.

Thanks for the comments and reading everybody.

Anonymous said...

disgusting comment. yuk.

Anonymous said...

absolutely disgusting, paupa new guinea. DON'T CLICK ON HIS NAME! this person obviously isn't here to talk about food.

Anonymous said...

please remove that comment from paupa new guinea. i'm so sorry i left my computer on to your page and my friend (who ironically is from dallas) thought it would be funny to post a weird comment. anyway, love the blog, and once again i'm really sorry he did that. thanks

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

I'm not sure whats going on here but I've deleted the comment.

Stephanie said...

I finally made it to Paco and John last week. I got the veggie taco plate. It was great. I really liked the rice and the fact that the tacos don't come covered in cheese. I want to go back and try their vegetarian breakfast taco. There are sweet potatoes involved.

Anonymous said...

i went there today and had a couple veggie tacos that were real nice. i've also had some other good veggie dishes like the quesadillas and enchiladas.

all excellent stuff that i've had so far.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Stephanie, I agree with your cheese comment. I've now had the chicken enchiladas and I noticed that. They were delicious by the way.

If somebody has had the cuban press, the salmon enchiladas, or any one of the specials, please let me know.

Veggie-readers, what all comes in the veggie tacos?

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

In my veggie tacos there are sauteed spinach and mushrooms, poblano peppers, squash, zucchini, tomato, and onion

Anonymous said...

My hair is not that long. It is stylish. Please refer to me in all future posts as your "Stylish, slightly long haired friend".

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Anonymous hippie, its long.

But also stylish.

Anonymous said...

I've tried the salmon enchiladas and they're A+. Definitely worth a try. Granted, it's a lot of food for lunch. It's also hard to order a $9 plate when some of the best tacos in town are under $2. The guacamole has perfect flavor and is very creamy, which I prefer to more traditional chunky guacamole. When this place gets a patio and starts serving dinner I imagine it will be hard to find a table.

Lloyd said...

Tried to eat lunch there today, and had a very unpleasant experience. I was meeting my wife there and got there several minutes before her, so I waited for a table for about 10 minutes. When my turn came (at 1225p), the french guy at the front asked me if my wife was there - I said that she was nearby and would be right in. So he sat me.

At 1232p (seven minutes after I sat down), with my wife pulling into the parking lot (she had gotten lost and turned the wrong way on 8th), the french "gentleman" came over to my table, picked up the menus, and said I would have to get back in line. When I explained that my wife could be seen outside pulling into the parking lot, he said he didn't care. He unapologetically made me get up and gave the table to someone else.

I guess I understand why they might not seat incomplete parties, as it ties up a table. My view is - if that policy is so important to you - you should make it clear with signs, wording on the menu - and not seat an incomplete party.

Anyways, the food looked good but, needless to say, I am not going back there and won't be recommending it to anyone.

Which is what I really don't understand - why embarrass someone to the extent that they will become a vocal and strident critic of your restaurant?

Rant over.

PS love the blog - long time lurker

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

Lloyd, I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. It may have been because I told them to kick out all people with two L's in their name. Its based on an irrational fear I have. Plus I have that power. In actuality, thats the kind of stuff that will keep me from ever returning to a restaurant so I can't fault you on your feelings. Service is something all restaurants need to focus on. If you give it another shot, let me know how things work out for you.

Everybody else, I think some of the people involved in the restaurant read this blog daily. So just go in and say you're name is Lloyd and you'll probably get some VIP treatment.

Anonymous, I have heard that about the salmon enchiladas from numerous people so I may have to get them now.

Thanks for reading and keep the comments coming.

Itzel said...

They actually have a sign up on the door now about not seating incomplete parties.

That aside, I had the queso poblano soup and the red snapper taco last week and both were fabulous. The soup was creamy, with just enough spice. The fish in the taco was moist and the tortilla was fresh, but the whole thing wasn't damp, so it didn't rip. The tomatillo salsa served with the fish taco was excellent as well, with a good bite on the back end of the taste.

The food was good, the wait staff was friendly and willing to discuss the menu and the prices were affordable. I'm going back as often as I can!

Nina said...

Mr. Holeinthewall,

I have a Mexican place that I think you should consider reviewing/eating at (if you haven't already). I ate here a long time ago when I was a little girl and I really loved the idea of it and I wasn't even sure if it was still open until I drove by this evening.

Don't be scared of the location - I know it looks sketch, but maybe just try it and see what you think. It used to be fabulous but I can't make any promises.

It is called Mi Cocinita on 3509 (and 1/2) Bryan Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76110 (817-923-0033). Their sign says they are only open Wed-Fri.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

I have recently deleted Qahir's comment for comments that I do not believe are appropriate for this blog.

farinatj said...

My wife had a baby recently at Baylor All Saints ... in addition to an awesome little boy, I also found my second favorite thing in Fort Worth during her stay -- Paco and John's breakfast burritos. I moved here from San Diego a year ago and have been searching tirelessly for the perfect breakfast gut bomb wrapped in a tortilla, and I finally found it in the hospital district. For everyone who is tired of having to order 2 b-fast burritos to sate their appetite, Paco and Johns is your solution. I don't know where they get their tortillas but they are the perfect size. Also and equally important, their salsa is homemade and amazing. You can buy a container to go for around $1.50, and it will knock your friends' socks off.

Sorry for sounding overly excited about this restaurant, but I am because I feel like I stumbled upon a goldmine. Check this place out because if it doesn't get the business it deserves and I get cheated out of my breakfast burritos I'm going to be mad at all of you.