Sunday, May 05, 2013

No More Hesitation about Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa on Urbanspoon Friday evening, and a wishes for Mexican food and a tour of Ottawa's Tulip Festival, drew us to Elgin Street.  Previously we had been to Ahora and found it to be satisfactory but not overwhelmingly knock your socks off good.

To be fair, we had previously been to Pancho Villa last summer and found the nachos to be subpar but the enchilada to be satisfactory.  But having been to Pancho Villa a number of years ago with good experiences I felt this place deserved a second chance.  I was torn, the previous visit I felt the nachos at this Mexican specialty restaurant to be subpar compared to the neighboring pub versions.  How could that be?  Not sure so on this visit I avoided the nachos and decided for something else.

We strolled down Ottawa's Elgin Street noticing the patios of many of the restaurants at capacity on this beautiful 27 degrees Celsius Friday evening with the Ottawa Tulip Festival starting for the season and NHL playoff fever in full swing with the Ottawa Senators playing in Montreal in a playoff fever.  This being Elgin Street, just south of Tulip Plaza at City Hall and the street itself being named "Sens Mile" the street was bustling.

Pancho Villa (361 Elgin Street, Ottawa) is nestled at the south end of the strip of restaurants on Elgin Street and is in the same restaurant plaza as Lieutenant's Pump which is also a local favourite.  Pancho Villa specializes in traditional Mexican fare with both an outdoor patio and a noticeably brightly painted and well tiled restaurant ambiance. We entered and were welcomed as well as inquired if we would like to sit on the outdoor patio or wished to dine in the restaurant.  The patio seemed full when we arrived so we chose the in door restaurant dining room.  We were the first table inside but soon two other tables arrived.  The others were seated further away and not clustered together like other restaurants might want to try.  This allowed tables to not be disturbed by their neighbours as well as providing enough room for a quiet meal if wished.

We were offered water as well as chips and salsa by a nervous looking server who seemed to be her first night.  In fact, I think we were her first table.  She did well though but the nerves were evident.  A polite couple of smiles and thank you from us seemed to calm her a little bit as we perused the menus.

The chips were a little thinly sliced compared to the traditional store bought Tostitos. The salsa was pretty watery with very little evident vegetables.  But because the chips and salsa were complimentary, they were passable.

The waiter stopped by, proudly wearing his Ottawa Senators T-shirt to inquire if we would any drinks and if we had any questions about the menus.  We ordered a Pepsi for myself and continued to peruse the menu.

Our waiter returned with the Pepsi and we were ready to order.

The Order: 1 Chicken Burrito  (one flour tortilla stuffed with refried beans and chicken filling) served with black beans and house salad and a Pepsi.  1 Chicken Enchiladas (Two rolled corn tortillas stuffed with chicken topped with house sauce and cheese) served with Mexican rice and salad.

The waiter left and returned within a very quick ten minutes with the food.  During that time the other server stopped by and refilled our water glasses.  She was in better spirits as well with a smile on her face and a more confident step in her walk than the first time around.  New employees at restaurants are always fun to watch and encourage.  But back to our meals.

I enjoyed the Burrito. Both meals required a knife and fork due to the house sauce.  Thus, no option to use your hands like at incomparable Taco Bell. The chicken insides were very tasty with complimenting sauce.  A solid performance there.  The black bean accompaniment was also excellent.  The only quibble was the only 3 corn chips provided in the black beans. Luckily, we still had a few corn chips left from earlier that easily made up for this deficiency.  The salad was just regular tossed salad with no real noticeable special preparation.  

The Chicken Enchiladas were similar to the Burritos, but had a slightly spicy zing to them.  The hotness was not overwhelming but noticeable.  The rice was prepared with a sauce that was good but not overwhelming gourmet.  The same plain side salad as the Burritos was included.

Service was pretty decent with the waiter returning periodically to see if we needed anything or would like desert.  The bill also came quick at the end when requested but we definitely were not rushed as the indoor restaurant was not that busy but was steadily building.

Overall, Pancho Villa is a decent spot in Ottawa to enjoy some Mexican food. Nachos need a little work but the Enchiladas and Burritos are solid recipes.  The side salads could be offered with dressing options to make them more customizable  but the rice and refried beans are excellent recipe options. Service, again, was excellent with complimentary chips and salsa accompanied with water while the menues are perused are a nice touch.  We will probably return in the future to Pancho Villa to see if this type of food and service can be maintained.
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