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Spotlight: Pepe’s Cantina In Winter Park

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Mi Tomatina, the paella place in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, is now Pepe’s Cantina. While Spanish may still be spoken here, the dialect is more Mexican than Catalan. And there’s a distinct Texas accent, as well.

Pepe’s Facebook page says the menu “puts a new twist on traditional Mexican cuisine.” If fajitas and nachos — and burgers, for that matter — are Mexican it’s only because they migrated from the country to the north.

But I’ll not quibble about authenticity. I had a pleasant visit to Pepe’s recently.

Table-side Guacamole is a self-described specialty of the house. The mix included two avocados, cubed, onions, tomatoes and ciliantro and a dash or two of jalapeno sauce. It was all a good, chopped consistency, much better than the pureed style, and only needed several dashes of salt to bring out the flavors. I must say, however, that at $9.50, it’s more than a few bucks overpriced.

For my entree I selected the chicken mole, which features a chicken thigh covered with a nicely done chocolate brown, earthy flavored mole. It was served with warm flour tortillas and accompanied by a medley of vegetables — broccoli, peppers, zucchini, onions — and a scoop of rather bland Mexican rice.

The same veggies and rice were plated with my friend’s carnitas platter. The familiar pork chunks had been cooked with beer and orange juice but neither liquid was able to keep the meat from being too dry.

Desserts aren’t authentically Mexican, either, but the tres leches and flan were the best things I tasted all evening.

I’m guessing that the food margins for Pepe’s Cantina are more favorable for success than those of Mi Tomatina. Whatever, I hope this concept does well — it’s a good addition to Winter Park’s West Side.

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