"My father and I have the same name, but he's known as Pancho," says Juan Francisco Ochoa, owner of the new Mexican fast-food restaurant Taco Palenque (2410 S. Wayside, 713-923-9733). "My father developed the Pollo Loco chain in 1975, then sold it in 1983 and returned to Mexico. He started working on Taco Palenque shortly after that, and in 1987 opened the first one in Laredo."
That one grew to six in Laredo, then they added three in McAllen, two in Brownsville, one in Nuevo Laredo and two in San Antonio. And we finally have one in Houston, with more to come. "What we serve here is our family recipes. Everything is home-style. We know that the product is very important, so we're very quality-conscious. We're also looking to open a Palenque Grill, which is a full-service restaurant."
Turns out, the food bears no resemblance to fast food — the quality and flavor are worthy of any full-service restaurant. One of the nicest things about this place is the condiment bar, which contains everything you will need to doctor up your dish — a variety of salsas, pico de gallo and, of course, free tortilla chips.
The tacos are overstuffed and probably twice the size of ordinary ones. You can grab free, handmade tortillas to wrap up the extra fillings. The three tacos we sampled were all terrific. The Matamoros had strips of steak along with refried beans, panela cheese and avocado; the pork adobada had pulled pork with lots of sauce; and the carnitas in the third were among the best ever tried, with both large chunks of pork meat and some crackling as well.
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