Pam’s Patio offerings cover the culinary universe

Nestled in the middle of a cozy shopping center at Wurzbach and Lockhill-Selma, Pam’s Patio Kitchen is not unlike your charming aunt who’s occasionally a little dotty. From the brightly painted walls to the student art for sale to the multicultural menu, Pam’s is a confusing, weird mix that ultimately comes off as quaintly eccentric.

It’s hard to know what to pick when a menu includes pad Thai, beef curry, stacked enchiladas, and pastas. I recommend choosing something with seafood — the shrimp tacos are tangy, fresh and more than a little spicy. The red cabbage slaw gives the tacos an excellent crispness and the avocado cuts the citrus. The shrimp al mojo de ajo has a more delicate flavor, strong on the garlic without going overboard.

Pam’s is a family restaurant, despite some mature-sounding entrées like the adult pizza. Not adult as in Traci Lords with stripper glitter, but more like capers, brie, and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s certainly not the Chuck E. Cheese of my childhood, but there’s one too many flavors at play here — it’s a little too rich and cluttered to be considered sophisticated.

A few too many flavors is a common theme at Pam’s. The pad Thai, while tasty, is a little sweeter than I’ve had at other restaurants. It would serve Pam’s better to call it Thai noodles. The chicken saltimbocca, covered in ham, mushrooms, capers, and lemon juice, is so rich it’s difficult (and perhaps not wise) to eat all in one sitting.

The stacked chicken enchiladas are more aptly described as smothered. Buried under a mound of poblano cream sauce, it’s difficult to taste anything other than the peppers. I know there’s chicken in there, but I had to go fishing when I didn’t taste it. You have the option of adding an egg on top; if you’re like me, you always take that option. But the egg winds up tasting like poblanos, so be prepared for one peppery dish.

The dinner fare and subsequent crowd is markedly different from the lunch scene. Lunches are soups, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. Lines often snake out the door and wind onto the patio. The lunch menu is extensive — sample a few dishes in one visit by pairing a half sandwich with salad or a soup, such as the creamy, spicy tom ka gai. If you’re after something more substantial, half of the greasy and delicious torta valencia is enough to sate your lunch cravings.

While Pam’s heavy-handedness with the spice rack doesn’t always hit the mark with the entrées, it serves the desserts well. I’ve had a lot of bad carrot cake in my life, but Pam’s version — sweet icing and a moist, dark cake — isn’t too heavy on the raisins. The Italian cream cake was so delicious a friend demanded it be served at her wedding. That’s damn good cake.

Dine al fresco whenever possible. The patio section is great for lunches, dates, and even chilly nights, thanks to the heat lamps and white twinkle lights. A reasonable wine list and the complimentary focaccia bread are added bonuses. Pam’s has flaws, but they’re relatively minor overall — a homey atmosphere and the moderately priced, flavorful food go a long way toward making Pam’s a neighborhood favorite.

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