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November 7, 2012

Restaurant Review 10 - Not So Successful

Occassionally I go to restaurants just because I'm hungry and need to eat.  I will often take pictures of my food, but then decide that the restaurant is not worth writing about.  In the last few months this has mostly happened to me at Mexican restaurants.  So in today's post I'm going to be talking about a few of local Mexican restaurants who weren't terrible, but are probably places I won't be dining at again.
The first place I visited was Paco's, in Winter Park, FL.  I had heard that some people loved it and I was in the mood for Mexican at lunch one weekday.  It was extremely close to where I was doing some contract work at the time, so I hopped on over.
The first problem is that there is very limited parking.  Luckily I was able to grab a space, but I would have been irritated if I hadn't been able to.  The second problem was that when you walk in the place is quite small, and they were PACKED at lunch.  I take it as a good sign when a restaurant is that busy, but in this case it didn't work out for me. 
I will say the person who greeted me at the door, and the waitstaff were very friendly and attentive.  That was a plus for Paco's.
My third problem was that the food was expensive.  I have a certain scale that I think Mexican dishes should hover at, and Paco's was above what I consider to be average priced.  This might have to do with the location, as Winter Park is considered one of the fancier parts of metro Orlando, but if you visited this particular neighborhood that doesn't apply.

Chips and Salsa at Paco's

Complimentary chips and homemade salsa were provided, but I did notice that on the menu it stated if you wanted refills of either there was a surcharge.  Again, I consider this disappointing as in 90% of Mexican restaurants chips and salsa are complimentary and this place was not special enough to exclude themselves (especially with higher than average menu prices!).

Enchiladas at Pacos (part of combo)

I placed my order for a combination plate that included two beef enchiladas and 1 beef hard taco.  The plate also came with rice and beans.  The beans were okay, just your typical refried beans topped with a Mexican cheese blend (cheddar and jack most likely).  The rice is not the normal rice I get at Mexican restaurants (that I really like and have managed to duplicate at home).  It was okay, but I would have preferred the kind I get elsewhere.

Pacos Taco with Combo Plate
The enchiladas were different.  They came with a green enchilada sauce instead of the normal red.  It was tasty but there was not enough of it.  The cheese topping the enchiladas was the same Mexican blend that was on the beans, and I would have preferred fresh cheese instead of the kind you can get from a bag at the supermarket.  The enchiladas were accompanied by lettuce, tomato, and sour cream.  I liked this touch because that's how my mom used to serve hers (with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream on the side).
The taco was a fairly standard hard taco with meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Not bad, but nothing special.
Like I said, Paco's was not bad, but to me it was overpriced, and in my opinion there are better local Mexican restaurants.

My next venture was to California Burrito Express.  I started working in downtown Orlando about a month ago and I am exploring new places to eat.  One day for lunch I wanted to go to Sweet Tomatoes but was afraid I wouldn't have enough time.  So I stopped at a place closer to the office that I thought would be faster.  It was Mexican and that sounded good to me so I thought I'd give it a try.
I guess the concept of the restaurant is real Mexican food, real fast.  You order fast food style from a menu they have on the wall (I believe they also had paper copies of the wall menu).  I perused the menu, looking for a combo plate that was on the cheap side.  I saw menu items stating they had rolled tacos, and as I had not had a rolled taco I thought that would be fun to try.  So I ordered the 5 rolled taco supreme plate. 
I only saw two men working, one was cooking and the other taking orders.  They have a drive thu, and I only saw 1 car pull through.  the counter guy was not exactly up to par on his customer service skills, but I don't generally expect a lot from "fast food" places.

Rolled Tacos at California Burrito Express

I waited between 5 and 10 minutes for my order to be ready.  I had ordered mine with beef, and when they said it was ready I noted it was chicken and informed them.  The next attempt was ready a short time later.  The plate came with the 5 rolled tacos, which seem to be nothing more than taquitos.  I wish they had called them that, I would have ordered regular tacos instead.  The plate came with guacamole, cheese, and sour cream spread on top of the rolled tacos.  On top of the sauces was grilled beef chunks.  There was lettuce and pico de gallo on the side.
The main problem was that there was not a lot of flavor!  The guacamole was bland, the beef could have been seasoned better, even the salsa verde I tried lacked any kind of flavor, it was just heat.

California Burrito Express

Paco's Menu

Plus, they over-fried the taquitos and they were tough to eat. 
It's such a bummer to be disappointed by a new place.  I feel like I've wasted my money and could have had something way more delicious.  The problem is, if you don't try new restaurants you might not discover a new favorite, so I guess it all comes down to taking the good with the bad.  
The third Mexican restaurant that I've gone to that was disappointing was Gringos Locos, located in the heart of downtown Orlando.  Now that I moved to a building downtown I am within in a ten to 15 minute walk of multiple restaurants.  This is GREAT because I can get between 20 and 30 minutes of excercise in at lunch, and I don't feel so guilty about eating things that I know aren't that great for me.  Plus there's a bigger variety of food and new restaurants awaiting me.
I was on my Foodspotting app (which you should get if you have an iPhone - but they also have a website you can check out if you don't) and saw that one of the people I follow kept posting pictures from Gringos Locos.  When I looked it up I saw that it was a ten minute walk from my building and figured I had nothing to lose.
Well, unfortunately I was disappointed.  When I got there it looked promising.  My first sign that things weren't going to go right was when the selection I had made while perusing their online menu was not on the menu at the actual location.  So I switched my order to be two Sloppy Tacos.  In theory, these sounded great, but in reality weren't any different than normal tacos.  They were ground beef in flour tortillas with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and pico de gallo. 
Unfortunately I was not impressed.  Not by the price and not by the food.  My order came to $8 for two tacos and a drink.  I could have done better at Taco Bell (which is really sad to say).  The ground beef had some kind of sweet taste to it, and I am certainly not a fan of that.  It was almost like sloppy joe meat, just not as saucy.  When I order tacos I want fresh, slightly spicy, flavorful food.  This was just not that. 
If, and that's a big if, I return I will not be ordering their tacos again.  Hopefully in my journeys to other places downtown I will find another Mexican place that is priced right with delicious food.
I had perused the menu online and had made a selection
My advice is to try other restaurants in the downtown and Winter Park areas of metro Orlando.  PR's in Winter Park was better, and there are various other Mexican restaurants downtown that you could try.  I would recomend spending your lunch break avoiding the above mentioned places, and finding somewhere new.

Gringos Locos

Gringos Sloppy Tacos

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