First Taste

Paquime Street Food of Mexico in Sunnyslope: Tortas Paquime Goes Fancy, Fast-Casual

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Paquime Steet Food of Mexico Location: 17 East Dunlap Road Open: About three weeks Eats: Mexican Price: Less than $10 a person

If you're already a fan of Tortas Paquime, the mini-chain of five restaurant that specializes in the Mexican sandwiches, there's a good chance you're also going to like Paquime Street Food of Mexico. The restaurant is the newest concept from the Paquime restaurant family and while the menu will probably look pretty familiar to Tortas Paquime fans, it's about the only thing that will.

See also: 5 Things to Order at Tortas Paquime That Aren't Tortas

If you've ever been inside one of the five Tortas Paquime locations, then you already know that they deliver a bright, clean atmosphere that gives the restaurants wide appeal. Well, Paquime Street Food of Mexico takes that idea to a whole new level. Design features like exposed brick, wood flooring, and a sleek handwritten menu board make this feel more like the newest fast-casual chain than a locally owned spot -- and we mean that in a good way. When we stopped in for lunch customers ran the gamut from a table of workers on a lunch break to young couples enjoying a leisurely meal on the patio.

At this sister restaurant to the Tortas Paquime brand, they've traded out the paper plates for white dishware and offer plastic finger protectors that slip over your thumb and forefinger to prevent messy fingers while eating. It's a fun idea that doesn't exactly work, particularly if you have small hands. Nevertheless, we appreciated the effort.

Since this is a fast-casual style restaurant, you place your order at the counter, choose an table, and wait for your food to be delivered. But don't let the business model trick you into thinking the service here is lacking. To the contrary we were given samples of the daily soup (a very tasty green chile corn chowder) as well as each of the three aguas frescas while we placed our order.

We started with a very good lime fresca and an Aguas de Frutas ($2.75) laden with pieces of melon and strawberry. It may have been a little sweet for some, but ended up being a perfect counterbalance to our order of Esquites ($3.99). The corn off the cob came swimming in a mixture of mayonnaise, butter, cotija cheese, lime, and chili -- though all we could really taste was the lime and butter, making for a very sour and oily experience.

Luckily, it wasn't long until our entrees arrived, an order of the Voleteados tacos ($6.99) and beef flautas ($6.99).

The former dish was far better than the latter, which was acceptable but not excellent thanks to a filling of rather dry shredded beef. The thick slices of avocado and guacamole sauce helped to smooth things out, but the layer of raw white onions just ended up on the side of the plate.

Now, when it came to the voletados, we cleared our plate. The dish features a trio of corn tortillas with shredded pork that's covered in a layer of melted jack cheese and slices of avocado. The result is a dish that tastes like a Mexican version of grilled cheese with a crisp layer of cheese, smoky pork, and fresh avocado.

Overall, the menu is smaller than that of Tortas Paquime, though the tortas section of the menu is almost identical. There are favorites such as the namesake Torta Paquime and Tostada Paquime as well as new additions including tacos de pescados and Hot Dog Mexicano (Sonoran hot dog). The biggest draw and difference will definitely be the more upscale atmosphere that will lend this concept to wider expansion, which the company has said it's hoping for.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria