Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Atmosphere: Sunny Mexican village.
Price Range: From $1.20 for a beef taco to $7.95 for carne de res de Maxatian steak in a savory sauce; most main course entrees in the $4 to $5 range.
Credit Carde: Accepts kanor credit cards.
Reservations: Advisable on Fridat and Saturday evenings when a strolling guitarist is in residence.
Special Facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs; high chairs and booster seats available; free and adequate parking in shopping center lot.
"I feel like I'm on vacation in Mexico," my husband announced.
Some 10 minutes earlier we had arrived at Pancho Villa, a Mexican restaurant in Rockville, and our party of six had been seated at a large table in the corner. Lively Mexican music, complete with castanets, was playing quietly in the background. The thickly textured, whitewashed adobe walls set off Mexican weavings and paintings. In the back and center of the restaurant was a giant copper urn filled with plants. White light, reminiscent of tropical sunlight, glanced off the fern fronds and dracena leaves.
All of this came as quite a surprise. Pancho Villa is in the back of a small, very conventional, neighborhood shopping center off Norbeck Road in Rockville. We didn't expect such as breathtaking atmosphere at what we thought would be an ordinary Mexican restaurant.
If the relaxing, exotic atmosphere was the best thing, second place went to the quesadilla, an appetizer ("antojito") that our waiter recommended. We wanted something my husband, our two children and two friends could share. We had already opted for nachos, $1.75, because our son loves nacho-flavored corn chips and we thought the taste would be similar.The quesadilla, $1.80, looked like a flat, tomato-less pizza with an upper and lower crust. The crust was paper thin and light as air. Cheese, lightly spiced with chilis, was between the layers. The quesadilla, cut into eight sections, was served on a round, dinner-size plate. We gobbled up our slices, and we managed to find a fair way to apportion the two extra pieces. The nachos, while tasty, were too spicy for some of us. They were, indeed, corn chips, but cheese, laden with hot spices , had been melted over them. Our daughter Beckly loves spicy food and couldn't eat enough of them.
The Pancho Villa menu makes it easy for hungry family members to stuff themselves on huge combination ("especialidades"") dinners, priced from $5.95 to $7.95. Less hungry souls can order more simply from either the "combinaciones" section, which feartured such as tacos, chili relleno or tostada for $2.95 to $4.55, or from the ala carte section, which offered one Mexican dish, such as enchiladas, chimichanga, tostada and the like, for $1.20 to $3.95.
Our group managed to hit all the tastes. Our son Doug, who hates beans and has a milder aversion to spicy food, was worried about all the dishes. He refused to order from the section called "para los gringos" and wouldn't consider the "para los chicos" section (for children under 12) because the only offering was taco or enchilada with rice and beans, $1.75. He doesn't like either one. He decided to gamble on a beef burrito, $1.65.
Our daughter, who thinks tacos are one of the best dished produced, ordered a taco-and-enchilada combination, $4.40, which came with rice and beans.
My husband and I were both eyeing the larger combination dinners. They sounded similar. La Fiesta, $5.95, had a salad with guacamole, beef taco, beef enchilada, chili relleno, rice and refried beans. The Comida Buena, $6.95, had a tostada especial, taquitos conguacamole, beef enchilada, chili verde burrito, rice and refried beans. We knew they were different, but how? Our waiter explained that Comida Buena came with a salad, a muy grande (vey big) one. As the salad freak in our house, I went with the Comida Buena. My husband opted for La Flesta.
Our friends, who are more familiar with Mexican food, didn't want to dabble with little tastes of lots of things. They ordered the chili verde, $5.95, a beef and pork stew seasoned with onions and chilies. "Not for the timid," the menu said.
La Flesta and Comida Buena were served on big, rectangular plates that kept the tacos, enchiladas and chili rellenos from crowding each other. Almost everything was delicious. The enchilada was everyone's favorite - nicely seasoned with a gentle sauce and melted cheese covering it. The beans had a burnt taste and received the lowest ranking.
We weren't exactly hungry at this point, but the desserts sounded so interesting we thought we'd order two and share them. "Sopaipilles" were deep fried pastries served with cinnamon, sugar or honey, $1.25. "Empanadas de Dulce" were Mexican-style turnovers, filled with fruit and served with whipped cream, $1.65.
Our tab for a very filling and good dinner for six was as surprising as the decor and the quesadilla. It came to $29.20, including two Mexican beers, three coffees and very pleasant and friendly service.