Paco and John’s Mexican Diner is the unlikely hybrid of French and Mexican culinary traditions housed in a converted gas station. This nouveau taqueria fills the need for a taqueria that won’t leave you wondering about the fortitude of your intestinal system. Paco and John opened this spring to a receptive lunch following and have included a dinner service recently, much to local foodies delight.
Paco and John embodies a certain chic that lands it way beyond traditional taquerias with a modern and light decor while still maintaining a casual and comfortable feel. The glass fronted building houses an intimate dining area with about ten tables. In true taqueria style the kitchen is open and up front. There are also refrigerator cases that line the wall with drink options if you choose not to BYOB.
The dinner options demonstrate the brilliant melding of French and Mexican cuisines. The apertivos include Mexican homestyle favorites such as Queso Fundido which is traditionally served with chorizo and covered in melted cheese. Seriously, what isn’t delicious covered in melted cheese? Well how about crabmeat? There’s a touch of French decadence for you in the crabmeat version of Queso Fundido. My dinner companions opted to keep things a bit lighter and we settled on the Oysters Fautas. The beautiful small flautas were crunchy and crispy with tender oysters inside. The toppings of rich mexican crema, queso fresco, avocado, and lettuce brought extra flavor and texture to the flautas. The dish was served with a wonderfully addictive tomatillo salsa that gave some nice heat.
The Platos Fuertes (entrees) offer a wide range of options from fajitas to tenderloin to rotisserie roasted chicken. Vegetarians can choose the Chile Relleno topped with queso fresco.
Paco and John’s Mussels were a deal at $11.95 and I could not pass them up. A heaping plate of steamed blue mussels arrived at the table. The tender mussels were seasoned nicely with fresh bites of cilantro and tomato. The dish comes with tortillas that you can use to sop up all the leftover broth.
You’ll find the side dishes that accompany the mussels are a nice surprise. One side was a Mexican take on ratatouille with the addition of poblano to the traditional zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. The other was a sublime baked terrine style dish composed of potatoes, sweet potatoes and poblanos, with a crusty cheese top layer.
The Cordonis al Mole Rojo ($12.95) is roasted quail stuffed with rice, champignons (mushrooms if your French is rusty), and jalapeno. You can choose either a red or green mole to top the quail. The red mole tastes like a traditional mole but more refined. The green mole provided an unexpected but welcome consistency with the addition of pine nuts and it was packing some heat. We opted for the green mole which played nicely with the tender quail.
Risking embarassment at your pronunciation of Huachinango a la Veracruzana ($13.95) is worth it once you dig into your plate of roasted red snapper. The generously portioned snapper is covered in a luxurious and bright sauce of lime and guajillo chile pepper. The snapper comes with a side of rice and beans.
This wonderful meal begged for a big finish with desert. We could not decide between the Flan and the Coconut Pie so we got both. The well prepared flan was covered in a sweet syrup and accented with three Maria’s cookies. The Coconut Pie was luscious in both appearance and taste.
Paco and John’s is BYOB. We picked up some Dos Equis at a convenience store on the way and fortunately it paired well with our food choices. There is no corkage fee but they do charge $1 for use of their wine glasses, unless you’re willing to save a couple of bucks and drink from the bottle.
Paco and John’s dinner offerings infuse Mexican dishes with French panache and French dishes with Mexican bravado. Whether you are looking for Buen Provecho or Bon Appetit this chic little spot deserves many return visits and I look forward to more tasty surprises. If you’re looking for an easy-going spot for a first date or just want a creative dinner that doesn’t break the bank, Paco and John’s is the spot. It can be tough to secure a table at lunch but the dinner service is less crowded.
Oysters Flautas or a Fundido for starters. Paco and John’s Mussels (when available) and The Cordonis al Mole Verde mix up flavor expectations in a good way.
Monday – Friday
Breakfast 7:30AM – 10:30AM
Lunch 11AM – 2:30PM
Dinner 5:30PM – 9:30PM
Saturday Brunch 10AM – 2PM
Paco and John’s Mexican Diner
1116 8th Avenue