Juan Francisco “Pancho” Ochoa founded the quick-service Mexican food chains El Pollo Loco, in Guasave, Mexico, in the 1970s, and Taco Palenque, in Laredo, in the ’80s. Come the aughts and Pancho and family were at it again, this time establishing a full-service, authentic Mexican restaurant in 2005 in Laredo called Palenque Grill.
A second location of Palenque Grill came to McAllen in 2006, and finally, in 2011, a third opened in San Antonio (389 N Loop 1604 W, (210) 545-7600). Should you find yourself on the North Side between 4 and 7 p.m. (you’re going to be hard pressed to make it there after work coming from Downtown, but it is possible), pay the Grill a happy hour visit.
Happy hour snackin’ begins with chips and salsa, naturally, but also with an addictive refried bean and chorizo dip. A boozy and refreshing Jose Cuervo Especial margarita on the rocks for $3.49 is a great place to start your drinking. You could opt for the “submarino”—a beer overturned into a frozen margarita—but don’t, only because those look silly. Micheladas made with real Clamato (none of this Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix bullshit) are spicy and, IMHO, best with Indio. They’ll also run you $3.49.
Beer is a steal during happy hour, with domestics clocking in at $1.49 and imports at just $1.99. Also for $3.49, you could have Jack and Coke, house wine, a piña colada or SKYY Vodka … Or, because we’re at a Mexican restaurant, a 2-ounce shot of reposado (Jose Cuervo Tradicional). When in Rome…
After you’ve had a few drinks and moved past the chips and dip hunger level, turn your attention to the panchitos and tacos al pastor. An order of panchitos for $2.99 presents a heaping plate of nachos topped with fajita meat and guacamole. They’re a good value for what you get, but overall, pretty normal nachos. The tacos al pastor, on the other hand, at $1.25 each, are a noteworthy way to combat the drunk-munchies. Load up a pork and pineapple taco (or three) with cilantro and onion, and you’re set.
One other item that caught my attention: the oyster shot. For $0.99, you get a shot glass with one oyster swimming in a tomato soup with some veggies. Interesting presentation and tasty; I’d do it again.
The scene isn’t romantic or raucous—Palenque Grill very much gives off a friendly, family restaurant vibe, but, there will likely be some live music in the form of guitar or piano. The deals are good and the food and drink are consistently satisfying.
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