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.