Though Don Pico’s Mexican Bistro had some good dishes, it did not impress my husband and I enough to warrant the drive out to San Bruno for another visit. To be fair we are a bit spoiled by living next to the Mission in San Francisco. We did loved the vibe of the place though -- a family restaurant that seemed to come straight out of my husband’s childhood in LA. He felt warm and fuzzy remembering nights out with his folks and brother in places with much the same décor as Don Pico’s. I liked it because it had two sides to it. The room you enter has a very casual feel to it, and the other room, the bigger room, has live music. We chose the live music room, and I’m glad we did. It certainly enhanced the evening, though at times it sounded a bit corny. We were both were struck with the artwork on the walls.
The service was a little uneven at times. They showed us to a nice table and gave us some chips and salsa. Careful of their salsa! It is HOT! I wanted to eat more of it, but I had to ask if they had a milder version. The waiter poked a little fun by saying he knew it would be too hot for me. He did say he would get me a tamer salsa but he actually never did bring it to me. After awhile another person came over to see if we wanted more chips, and I asked him if he could hook us up with a milder salsa. It did eventually arrive and was filled with fresh veggies and perfect. We also asked a few of the people working there if they knew the artist of a particular set of paintings we admired while we were eating and no one knew.
We ordered two margaritas with salt and thought they tasted like a mix. We liked the appetizer we had. The ginger pork empanadas were fried so they had a nice crispy texture with a good stuffing of pork and ginger. The best part of the meal was definitely my selection of Don Pico’s Specialties’ Tacos de Pescado (two bacon-crusted fish tacos with salsa fresca) and rice and beans. These were super yummy and the rice was especially good. I tried my husband’s dish, tampiquena (a grilled skirt steak) and that was delicious too. We did not order desserts.
At times the dinning experience was inconsistent, but the food overall was tasty.
Occupation: Market Researcher
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Saha
Reviewed Don Pico's Mexican Bistro & Cevicheria: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Christian and I love Mexican food, so we were excited to venture out to San Bruno and try out Don Pico’s, especially when we read that it has been around since 1975 and attempts to use the freshest produce and highest quality meat available. I took a 45-minute BART ride to get there while Christian drove; a bit far for a normal dinner out. Upon arriving at Don Pico’s we were a bit skeptical. It was on a busy road in a strip mall-like setting with neon signs in the windows. Walking through the front door we didn’t get the expected overdone and exaggerated Mexican decor but instead found ourselves in an eclectically designed bar/lounge-like setting. The nice wall-sized windows let in a lot of afternoon light, allowing us to see a beautifully colored bull fighting mural covering one wall, a large clean bar area, and bright blue upholstered booths for seating. There was also a separate seating area in a different room, which I believe is the original Don Pico’s space, but it was a bit darker and had a dingier feeling, so we opted to dine in the lounge setting that I think was just added this year.
Since it was only 5:20, we were only one of about four tables, so the service was attentive from the start, bringing waters and taking our drink and appetizer orders right away. I got a margarita and some handmade guacamole ($6.95) to go along with the free chips and salsa that they had brought over. I love spicy food, but the free salsa, while fresh, was extremely hot. It was so spicy that it had me coughing and choking with my first bite, so I would have appreciated a slightly milder version to go along with my chips (although this spicy version was good to combine with the somewhat bland guacamole). The chips were nice and thick and crispy, but not too greasy. My margarita was quite tasty and had a nice kick to it without being too acidic or sweet. However, I found it to be a bit small for the $7.50 price, and while I love salt on my margarita rim, it was coated a bit too thickly, so I found myself having to lick a bit off but then drink from the straw in order to not be overwhelmed with saltiness.
While we waited for our entrees we enjoyed reading the history of Don Pico’s on the front of the menu but were then shocked to find out that it is in fact a cevicheria. We love ceviche, but hadn’t seen any on the menu, if we had we definitely would have ordered that instead of the guacamole. When we asked the waiter about it, he told us that they don’t actually put the ceviche dishes on the menu and instead you just have to ask. A bit of a strange choice if you're going to call yourself a cevicheria! Before we had time to be too upset by our oversight, my carnitas Yucatan ($15.95) and Christian’s homemade chile verde ($14.95) arrived. They came out so quickly that most things must not be cooked to order. Both were served with rather bland rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and your typical refried beans. I say "typical," but they were yummy, although I’ve never met a refried bean I haven’t liked! While my carnitas were good, they weren’t anything exceptional, but the chunks of pork in Christian’s chile verde were extremely tender, and the sauce, while mild, was nicely flavored.
While we were feeling quite full, Christian is a huge flan aficionado so we couldn’t pass up the chance to try Herlinda’s Homemade Flan. Except for the fact that they were out of all flan. How can a Mexican place have five different flan desserts and be out of all of them? On a Wednesday when the weekly food surplus should be nice and high before the weekend rush? On a Saturday at 9 PM, I would understand being out of something this central, but on a Wednesday at 6 PM? Disappointing. We should have just skipped dessert after that but we persisted and tried the pastel de tres leches ($6.95). While I kind of liked the soaked, soggy texture of the cake, it was overly sweet for me (frosting and whip cream?!) and definitely not homemade.