Competition for the best Mexican restaurant in Brunswick, Maine: Pedro O'Hara on Maine Street, El Camino on Cushing Street, and the new Hacienda Pancho Villa on Pleasant Street.
The verdict: Pancho Villa just might be ahead of the pack.
Walking into the restaurant you are transported to a Mexican hacienda with vibrant yellow and earthy tones, brick trim, and brightly colored chairs. Mariachi music plays quietly in the background, as well as some modern day famosos like Julieta Venegas. Be sure to ask for a booth in one of the more intimate coves to authenticate your experience.
Upon taking your seat, you are promptly served oven warm tortilla chips with a daring salsa. The guacamole appetizer is not to be missed; while it's a little overzealous with the onions, overall, it's a better recipe than most restaurants. Cuidado! Don't fill up on these tasty numbers; your meal is still to come!
To add to the atmosphere, all food is served on the seemingly appropriate fiesta ware (vintage ceramic plate ware) in the most vibrant colors.
The menu is ample with choices for any appetite. With tacos, quesadilla, burritos, flautas, tamales, and much more, it's difficult to decide. For the not so adventurous, standard hamburgers are available. The menu also includes some healthier options for those so inclined.
Choosing between one of the various combination plates is the best idea. And you can create your very own meal. These plates come with delicious frijoles (refried beans) and rice.
All entrées are available with chicken, ground beef, or a few different vegetarian options. Although not always listed, be sure to ask for carne asada (steak) with the enchiladas or tostadas (only $1.00 extra).
My friend and I decided to share a combination plate with an enchilada, tostada, and tamal?this was plenty for two with a little doggy bag accompanying us home. All items fall pretty short on the spicy factor, but for those who are daring enough, order the Burritos MACHO with the "xxxtra" special sauce.
Our chicken tamal was delicioso but it lacked that special zing. The tostada with the crispy shell was topped with fresh veggies and it was enhanced with our extra guacamole. The enchilada sauce was also good, but could have been made with a spicier chipotle.
Be sure not to miss the delicious homemade chicken tortilla soup with diced avocado, fresh tomatoes, large chunks of grilled chicken breast, and lots of crispy tortilla strips.
On the drinks menu, killer margaritas in various flavors are tempting. For you kiddies out there, all these have the option of being made virgin.
Also impressive, the menu boasts eight Mexican beers along with your usual domestic options. Horchata (a delicious rice water drink particular to Mexico) is also available only upon request.
To round out your meal, how could you leave without a little postre! Although the dessert menu is minimal, it does offer your classics. You cannot pass up a homemade flan or fried ice cream. Another dessert, Banuelos (something foreign to me) is a deep-fried taco shell sprinkled with powdered sugar, honey and topped with whipped cream (watch out if you're making a trip to the dentist any time soon).
While the prices seem a little high for your average college student, you get plenty of food for your money. Splitting entrees is a good idea for those who don't want to spend too much.
So why is this restaurant leading the pack in the quest for best authentic Mexican food in Brunswick? Well, beside the tasty meal and infectious atmosphere (though I wanted to, dancing was not allowed), Pancho Villa flaunts impeccable service and a friendly staff. The dining room is spacious and meals are served promptly. It's no surprise the owners are set to open another restaurant in South Portland later this year.