It was a cold night in Bris-Vegas and I had a craving for sour cream and guacamole. My friend MD, that I was staying with in Newmarket, claimed there was a great little Mexican joint just down the road from her place. And so it was decided, we were to go to Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant. Getting a table there was a different story, particularly since it was a Saturday night and we only called up to make a booking that afternoon. The earliest that we could get into Pepe’s was 8pm that night. Although I was starving, as were the rest of the group we were going with (most of us had just competed in the Spartan Race earlier that day), we figured we had no other ideas for dinner so 8pm would have to do. At about 7.15pm that night MD got a phone call from one of the Pepe’s staff saying that our table was ready. We got organised and headed down arriving at about 7.45pm.
We went in and asked for our table but it turned out that there was some sort of mix up and our table wasn’t ready after all. Anyway during the slight kerfuffle whereby MD and her two housemates sorted shit out at the bar I took the time to look over the large range of ‘Hot Sauce’ in the cabinet near the counter as well as numerous bottles of Tequila. I have no idea which ones were the good ones or not but I do know from my high school days that Coyote Tequila is probably the cheapest and nastiest. Heads up for my readers: do not be irresponsible and go to the Cairns Show after having a shot competition with your friends. (Disclaimer: despite my misgivings as a teenager and my inappropriate use of tequila I think I turned out pretty good so don’t judge me too harshly. Like most people my age I did go through the typical teenage binge drinking stage not that I condone it). These days if I do ever shot tequila, something that only happens very rarely, I tend to go for the Patron Coffee Liquer Tequila. Premium stuff that won’t strip your teeth of their enamel and it actually tastes gooooooood.
So anyway about 5 minutes later the staff organised our table (I have no idea what the problem was because I never asked) and we took a seat. The restaurant was super busy and what I thought was just a tiny little restaurant from the outside turned out to be far bigger than I had originally perceived. The restaurant seated probably about 120 people, but that guess is probably way off. The waitress handed out our menus and my friend MD and her housemate SB decided that they wanted to have a shot of tequila. After having a look over tequila menu and having no idea which one to order they asked the waitress for a shot around the AU$10 mark (Patron was too expensive) and off she went. About 10 minutes later another staff member returned with their tequila shots as well as a small ‘dish’ each of some sort of Mexican tomato sauce and a slice of lime. He gave them a quick rundown of the process and off he went again. The deal was they were to shot the tequila, shot the tomato sauce (it was kind of like a chaser) and then suck on the lime. Shot glasses clinked, cheers were made and shots were downed. Both MD and SB agreed that it was unique but pleasant way to have a shot of tequila.
Over in my corner I was having a bit of a tussle with myself over just what to order from the menu. MD had told me that Pepe’s also had really yummy breakfasts and after reading over the breakfast menu I had my heart set on the El Rancheros Grande but unfortunately it was a breakfast dish and only available at breakfast of course (sometimes I just feel like breakfast food for dinner). Again I made a mental note to return to Pepe’s for breakfast, granted the dinner was a hit. The table had already agreed to order an entree of Jalapeno Poppers – Jalapenos crumbed, stuffed with cream cheese and served with delicious jalapeno jelly AU$14.90 to share around. Down the end MD ordered the Burrito – Flour tortilla filled with chicken, beef, beans or chilli con carne then baked and topped with chilli sauce lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans $16.50 while across from me SB and MD shared the Double Enchilada – Corn tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, chicken or beef then baked with a rich tomato based enchilada style chilli sauce (a different style of chilli normally served with burritos) served with rice and beans for AU$22. And next to me TM ordered the Taquitos – Two corn tortillas rolled up with beef or chicken, fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with Mexican rice for AU$14.50.
For me it was a bit touch and go between the Pulled Pork Tamales – Slow Cooked BBQ pulled pork and corn polenta, steamed in banana leaf parcels, served with Chilli Con Carne and Mexican Salad for AU$24.50 and the Chimichanga – Flour tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, beef or chicken, deep fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans for AU$16.50. In the end MD’s boyfriend PS and I simply couldn’t go past the deep fried goodness of the Chimichanga.
We didn’t have to wait long after ordering until our Jalapeno Poppers arrived. There was six each so we would have gotten one each but there was a couple of sooks at the table that couldn’t handle the chilli so I ended up getting 1.5 Jalapeno Poppers. Winning! They must have only been pulled out of the deep fryer literally 30 seconds before being whacked onto a plate and delivered to our table because they were almost too hot to enjoy. You know like when you’re eating a tinned spaghetti jaffle (the best kind) and you want to eat it fast because it tastes good but instead you end up nearly burning your taste buds off? Yeah well that’s what these Poppers were like. They were yummy and spicy but they still had nothing on those good old Chilli Releno’s from El Mundo in Edge Hill. Ah the memories. The Jalapeno Jelly however was delicious and sweet and also helped soothe the temperature of the Jalapeno’s.
Before we ordered I asked the waitress how long Pepe’s had been open for to which she replied that she didn’t know and she would find out. Guess she forgot because she never came back and told me the answer. It’s not that I really care, I just like to test the staff’s knowledge on certain things. Taking home a takeaway menu for blog research I did find that Pepe’s was established in 1972 and is actually Brisbane’s first Mexican restaurant. I found it a little odd that the waitress actually had no idea. Maybe she’s wasn’t from Brisbane or something. Another 10 minutes later and our mains had arrived looking delectably cheesy.
MD said that she usually ordered the Burrito and although she kept saying how good it was she struggled to finish it off. Must have been all that tequila in her belly. SB and MD made a light meal of their enormous Double Enchiladas that they shared but they were more than satisfied in the end. TM raved about her Taquito’s and I actually thought they were really good value for AU$14.50 although probably a little bit too small for my liking. PS must have enjoyed his Chimichanga because he demolished the whole thing and then eyed off MD’s leftover Burrito.
I ordered the Beef Chimichanga because with the amount of chicken that I have been eating lately I’ll be happy if the only breasts I ever see again are my own. I certainly won’t order it by choice that’s for sure. I also ordered some extra guacamole (sml AU$2.50) and some extra sour cream (sml AU$1.50). My Chimichanga looked like a big fat deep fried pillow that made me weak at the knees with delight (lucky I was already sitting down). When I cut it open I was happy to find that the beef wasn’t mince like I was expecting but it was actually shredded. The beef mixed with the cheese inside and the crunchy tortilla on the outside was like heaven to my deprived taste buds – I knew I had made the right choice in ordering the Chimichanga in all it’s deep fried glory. And with the fresh guacamole and sour cream on the side it ticked all my boxes.
The atmosphere at Pepe’s was loud and colourful – as you would expect for a Mexican restaurant. I was really impressed with the range of hot sauces and was super excited to find a Tabasco Brand Buffalo Hot Sauce that I had never seen before. I am a bit of a Tabasco Sauce nut with my Tabasco sauce t-shirt and boxer shorts that MS has now claimed as his own. It was a bit steep at AU$12 a bottle but I guess you can expect that since the rest of the Tabasco sauce range certainly isn’t cheap anymore. The food at Pepe’s was also pretty good and by pretty good I mean it wasn’t fantastic. I don’t think that you can ever say that Mexican food is particularly outstanding because really it’s all much the same – cheese and tomato. Having said that I have had some terrible Mexican food in Cairns before and Pepe’s definitely ranks as some of the better Mexican restaurants I’ve been to. My Chimichanga hit the spot and the empty plates of my fellow diners was a pretty good sign that the food went down a treat. They might not have Stand and Stuff Taco’s on the menu at Pepe’s but they do stock one of the largest ranges of Mexican beer and Tequila in Australia. Arriba!
Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant
184 Enoggera Rd, Newmarket QLD
Ph: 3856 0966
Opening Hours: Mon 4pm – 10pm, Tues – Sun 11am – 10pm, Breakfast Sat & Sun 6.30am – 12pm
JUST A LITTLE RANT: I have been following the food trends down south via the Qantas Magazine, Delicious Magazine, Gourmet Traveller Magazine and a witty Melbourne food blog I discovered about six months ago called The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar. By all accounts from these four sources it seems that there are quite a few food trends that Cairns is missing out on. Well, lets see there is the hotdog one, the Mexican one (no I don’t mean Montezuma’s and Cactus Jack’s) and now the Dim Sum one? I don’t now what food trend Cairns is stuck on but I am pretty sure we are still stuck back at the Macaron or the Cupcake somewhere. I recently read about a place in Melbourne called Wonderbao that has people queued out the door for these things called ‘Baos’, which I am pretty sure are the same thing as a Steamed Pork Bun. Since reading about Wonderbao and it’s wonderous ‘Baos’ I have made it my life’s mission to go to Melbourne and eat a Roasted Pork Belly Bao. I don’t just want one, I need it. Apparently this Bao trend is not only a Melbourne thing as I recently found during a work trip to Brisbane.
Upon researching just where and what to eat in the city of Brisbane I stumbled across a review of a place not too far from where I was staying in the city called Steamed. After reading up on it a little more I was overjoyed to see that Steamed not only had Bao’s but it also had dumplings on the menu. A combination? Well roll me in dim sims and call me Mrs Chang! So the next day after knocking off early (who am I kidding we knock off early every day) I hurried my little feet down to Turbot Street and found myself at Steamed. It was a sparse but busy little place with office workers strolling in and out carrying armfuls of dumplings and Bao’s no doubt to take back to the office. There was even a woman sitting off to the side making fresh dumplings with a large ‘vat’ of mixture and a stereo, not just any old woman, she worked there.
On the menu they had three different flavours of dumplings to choose from and Pork Cloud, aka Bao, aka Steamed Pork Bun. Whatever it was, I wanted it! I had been for a run that morning and I deserved it (at least that is what my friend TW would say as she shovels a cupcake into her mouth). I chose a sample of the three types of dumplings and a Pork Cloud for around the $10 mark and took my seat at the bench to devour my freshly steamed delights. A man sat down across from me and started talking to me about my dumplings and my Cloud. I shot him a ‘You are ruining my oriental experience here goddammit’ look and politely told him that I wasn’t from Brisbane. I think he got the picture. Since when were Brisbane-ites so damn friendly anyway. I figured none of them since not one person had said good morning to me on my run (damn rude city people) and I nearly got hit by a bike rider – I swear that guy came out of nowhere! Sheesh.
Anyway back to my dumplings and Cloud. The dumplings flavours were: the Harbin Pork with Chives, ground Pork and diced Ginger; the Lovabull with Red Onion, Ginger, ground Beef and spices; and the Zen with Shitake Mushrooms, Chinese Cabbage and seasoned Tofu. I have to say that I didn’t particularly like the Lovabull flavour. The Red Onion just tasted nasty and I think that I make better dumplings at home. I did however really like the vegetarian one with the Tofu in it. It was super yummy and I kinda wished that I had more of those ones instead of the other two flavours. I wasn’t too impressed.
My Cloud however was fluffy and delicious. It didn’t have Roasted Pork Belly in it like I had been dreaming about but a rather tasty mixture of Pork, Ginger and Shallots. It was good but still didn’t satisfying my yearning for Wonderbao. At least I had come just that little bit closer. Yeah I know, I know we have Golden Boat where they have those Yum Cha trolley’s they drag around and you get to choose what want off of it. They have Steamed Pork Buns there I know but it’s the novelty of having a whole shop dedicated to steamed goodies with meat in them! Oh god!
In my Foot Falcon searches of Brisbane City and the Valley for the perfect cute dress I spied many a bustling Mexican eatery, two in particular Mad Mex and Guzman Y Gomez. I was already well aware of the Mexican food fad that had swept through Melbourne. (MS if you are reading this, please take me to Mamasita one day… I’ll be your best friend?) Apparently it’s sweeping through Brisbane now and while getting my hair done at Toni and Guy the entire salon gushed about how amazing Mexican chain eatery Guzman Y Gomez was and how they ate there nearly every day. I thought to myself ‘Holy sh*t I need to get to this damn Mexican place and fast!’ But alas, I already had a stomach full of dumplings and Cloud, no matter how far I had run that morning I did not deserve to eat Mexican as well as a Cloud. The girls claimed that the place is queued out the door most days and it has taken the city by storm. I was most upset that I wasn’t going to get to try one of these amazing burritos before I flew back to Cairns the next day since I already had dinner plans and I wasn’t eating a burrito for breakfast. And again, I know, I know we already have Mexican eateries in town, the likes of which I mentioned earlier but um ‘Hello’? Do you see anyone queuing out the door to go to these places? Never. I am really surprised that Montezuma’s is even still open because there is never anyone there. So if I am hearing about people regularly queuing out the doors to get their hands on a Quesadilla and hairdressers gushing about this so called gourmet Mexican food at Guzman Y Gomez then it must be good right? To tell you truth I think I was more upset that I didn’t get to see just what all the fuss was about rather than not getting to try a burrito. Now I have also made eating at one of these Mexican eateries my other mission in life. Yep, I’m certainly driven to succeed.
I have to admit it I love a good food trend and I guess I probably enjoy the novelty of it more than anything else but what upsets me is the fact that all these food trends happen everywhere but Cairns? Any why does it take us so damn long to catch up? I mean I know Townsville is still back in the stone age, they only just got a Myer for Pete’s sake so at least that makes me feel a little better but if they get a Mad Mex or a Guzman Y Gomez before we do then I am gonna lose my sh*t. For real yo. Do I really have to fly all the way down to Melbourne or wait for my next work trip to a capital city just to enjoy some decent Mexican food or visit an eatery made up entirely of dumplings and clouds? I am waiting with baited breath hoping that one day, just one day they might make their way up to little old Cairns and I can have my Bao and eat it too.
95 Turbot St, Brisbane QLD
Ph: 0432 933 423
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 10.30am – 3pm