Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Closed Saturdays until September, when 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule is resumed. Closed Sundays. Atmosphere: Village gathering spot. Price range: Dinners from $2.95 to $5.25. Sandwiches from $1.20. Reservations: No. Credit Cards: Not accepted. Special features: Narrow passageway entrance. Parking spaces behind the restaurant. Tables and booths.
Pepe's has existed quietly for six years as a gathering spot for friends, a restaurant where the tables surround the kitchen and everyone mingles.
The menu is neither printed nor overwhelming. The tiny scrawl on the blackboard and a smattering of individual signs list the specialties and other virtues of the small carry-out restaurant, which is family owned and operated. Your order is shyly taken but proudly served.
As for decorative quality, there is nothing remarkable. The peasant wedding mural enchants the children as it draws them into a realistic party scene. The rest of the room is plain -- total simplicity surrounded by friendly family smiles.
We ordered only Spanish dishes and will have to return to try the duck with olives, which was unavailable the evening we went. Sampling everything, we found we needed only about half the amount of food we ordered.
Everyone began with an empanada ($1.10 for two), a light dough with a mildly seasoned beef filling. They didn't have the delicate, decorative pastry pinching but they scored well in taste. A bottle of Tabasco waits for the fire-eaters.
Also thinly seasoned yet warmly received was the gazpacho ($1.35). A cold tomato-based salad soup filled with chooped bits of garden greenery, it was perfectly chilled and crunched with each bite of pepper, cucumber and onion.
Salads, all a la care, are large, enjoyable pre-entree respites. The palmito ($1.95) is filled with circles of heart of palm neatly sliced atop iceberg lettuce. A good oil and vinegar dressing with a faint touch of sugar accompanies this and the house salad ($1.25).
The dinners were the royal treat. A best guy is the burrito topped with chili $2.95). It is crisp and loaded with filling. The chili is a meal in itself, lending spice to the burrito.
The pollo en cazuela ($4.25) is pieces of stewed chicken with sausage. Again, the fine country fare is demonstrated with the attentive handling of ingredients.
The chicken and the beef entrees are served with saffron rice and black beans, wonderful accompaniments.
The bistec menuta ($5.25) was a thick, yet tender, steak served with grilled onions. The beef milanesa ($4.95) was two thin steaks that had been lightly breaded and then fried. A pinch of lemon brought out the delicate taste.
We shared a delicately sweet flan ($1.10) for dessert. Even with our broad sampling, and including beers, sodas and tax, the bill for our family of four was $35.01.