Pepe's Cantina Church Street

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Pretty soon, I'm going to have to start writing reviews in Spanish.

Or Spanglish, perhaps.

In case you haven't noticed, we've had a lot -- A LOT -- of Mexican, Tex-Mex and tacomongers open lately. So many that it was a factor in Mucho Tacos and Tequila's decision to close and make way for Muddy Waters, a New Orleans style restaurant (which we could certainly use more of).

But el market will supply what el dining public demands.

Which is all to say that the Church Street location of Pepe's Cantina is up and running and filling the demands of downtowners looking for good Tex-Mex. (The original Pepe's, in Winter Park's Hannibal Square, was the winner of the 2017 Best Tex-Mex Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants.)

The newest PC takes over the Church Street Station space that most recently was an overflow venue for the next door neighbor called Mary's Side Bar. But the Hamburger Mary's people found it useful only for special events; the landlord wanted someone with regular hours. So Mary stepped aside for Pepe. Other occupants of this address have been Church Street Tavern (and, apparently, some unwanted residents) and before that The Dessert Lady.

It was slow when I met someone there for lunch recently, but by the end of our meal the place was thrumming with plenty of downtown office workers on their breaks.

In the true tradition of Tex-Mex restaurants (and a clear clue that you're dining in one as opposed to an authentic Mexican restaurant), chips and salsa are offered upon seating. Pedestrian chips; OK pulpy salsa.

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I kept things simple and ordered the Al Pastor Taco, with roast pork, some fresh cilantro and some chunks of grilled pineapple (if you don't have pineapple, you don't have an al pastor taco). It was served in a warm, corn tortilla that had a tiny bit of elasticity. It came with a timbale of Mexican rice and a cup of pureed refried beans topped with a bit of melted cheese. For two tacos, some rice and beans, I thought the $12 charge was el steepo.

Servers could use a little basic training.

Besides the small but comfortable dining room, Pepe's Cantina offers patio service out front on Church Street.

Pepe's Cantina is at 120 W. Church St., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-730-2341.

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