REVIEW: Pachuco Mexican Dining Bar in Taipei

Photo Credit: Adam Hatch
Why you need to know

'Pachuco has a lot to offer, but the cuisine is the star of the show.'

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Civic Boulevard has become one of Taipei’s top destinations for foodies. While most of the restaurants in the neighborhood are, understandably Asian, Pachuco adds a little Mexican to the mix — a type of fare Taipei is sorely lacking.

Pachuco Mexican Dining Bar opened last December on Civic Blvd. in Songshan District. I stopped in for dinner and drinks last week with some friends and ended making a great Saturday night out of it. Patrons were largely younger and Taiwanese, but it also caters to an international crowd.

The good:
  • Amazing food — steak skewers, steak quesadillas and spicy house salsa.
  • Good cocktails and solid bar.
  • Great music and fun atmosphere.
The bad:
  • Dishes come out one by one.
  • Not a huge drink selection beyond tequila.
  • Music is too loud early in the evening.
Food

Pachuco has a lot to offer, but the cuisine is the star of the show. Dishes are mostly "Tex-Mex," but with flavors and depth not seen at other Mexican restaurants in Taiwan. My group sampled a range of dishes including the chips and dip combo, skewers, a torta, quesadilla and enchiladas.

chips-pico-guac-chipotle
  • Chips and dip combo

They make the chips in-house and deliver them warm to your table. We ordered pico de gallo, guacamole and the genuinely spicy house salsa — a mole-chipotle sauce that was amazing. Seriously, they should bottle and sell the stuff (be careful though — it’s pretty spicy and it sneaks up on you). The pico de gallo and guac were solid, although the guacamole was noticeably salty.

skewers1
  • Skewers

This may have been the favorite of the evening. We ordered steak, pork and chicken skewers. All of them are barbecued with a mild yet flavorful glaze. The pork and the chicken are both delicious — moist and tasty and memorable — but the steak skewers are mouth-watering and some of the best beef I have had in Taipei.

torta
  • Torta

The steak torta is a good choice, especially for customers who may not be so familiar with Mexican food. Again, the spices are mild yet present, but the serving size is impressive and the warm, crispy buns are as much of a draw as the meat.

quesadilla
  • Quesadilla

The skewers might have been my favorite, but some of my friends claim the steak quesadilla is even better. Far and away the best quesadilla I have had since I was last in California, Pachuco’s version features an oozing amount of high-quality cheese and the same meat as the skewers. They also grill the tortilla, making it easier to eat with your hands and adding a bit of crispiness that ties the dish together.

tacos
  • Tacos

We tried the chicken, steak, and pork tacos. One of my friends — very much a pork fan — raved about the chicken taco. The pork taco is also topped with pineapple, adding some contrast to the savoriness of the rest of the dish. The only drawback to the tacos is that they are small. They are almost closer to giant tortilla chips rather than tortillas. Still, at NT$100 (US$3) each they aren’t too expensive, so you’re obviously supposed to order at least a few.

enchiladas
  • Enchiladas

The enchiladas are the best example of why Pachuco stands out from other Mexican joints in Taipei. We ordered the shredded pork enchiladas, which are, like everything else, delicious. Unlike other Mexican restaurants in Taipei though, the enchiladas aren’t simply burritos drenched in sauce — that is a “smothered” burrito, and Pachuco offers those as well. Pachuco’s enchiladas are more like large tacos with a thick, soft corn tortilla, but then topped with a creamy, white salsa. They aren’t completely soaked in sauce and it doesn’t fall apart like most enchilada experiments I have seen.

Drinks

Besides being a restaurant, Pachuco is a solid entry into Taipei’s bar scene. It’s not the biggest, but it has a unique selection and makes for a great place when your group has a range of drink preferences. Wine, beer, liquor — Pachuco’s bar will satisfy just about anyone.

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  • Wine

Pachuco is one of the few places I have been to that serves sangria. It tastes well enough, but they don’t make it the traditional way by letting the fruit soak in wine. Instead, it is almost a mixed drink where they mix fruit, house red and a little bit of sour mix. I would also recommend the white wine sangria.

The actual wine selection was simple yet diverse. I spotted wines from France, California, Australia, Spain, and Chile. Most wines are inexpensive as Pachuco isn’t trying to be a wine shop, but your snobby wine friends won’t have much to complain about should they stop in for a glass.

marg-tequila-2
  • Cocktails

Pachuco offers cocktails you won’t find at any other bars in Taipei. They make a dangerously drinkable Long Island Iced Tea, and it was the first time since college since I’ve seen what Pachuco calls the “See You Tomorrow” (in California we called it the “Adios Motherf****r” or AMF for short). They also serve a few cocktails where tequila is the star. I recommend the Chico.

The margaritas are strong but not overpowering. Glasses have a salted rim and they are on the sour side, which I prefer, but if you wanted them a little more sweet the bar staff wouldn’t have a problem making them.

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  • Liquor

We may have ordered more than one round of tequila shots, but the house tequila, Don Ernesto, is at least as smooth, if not as deep, as Patron Silver — which is also common at Pachuco. I also sampled the “Jager Grenade” which is a Jagerbomb but with a tequila shot acting as the pin — pull the tequila “pin” and the Jager falls into the Red Bull. Shoot the tequila, then crush the bomb. Things got a little fuzzy after that.

Besides tequila, the liquor selection is modest. They have a few decent scotch varieties, but no bourbon besides Jim Bean. I tend to enjoy whiskey more than anything else, but I also don’t expect a Mexican restaurant and bar to have a wide range of Kentucky bourbons — and I doubt I would want one after all the food we ate.

  • Beer

Pachuco only has Taiwan Beer on draft and Corona in the bottle, which is about all you need at a Mexican restaurant. It’s one of the few bars in Taipei where you can get a Corona with lime, and they’re not overpriced like it’s a luxury item.

Another interesting feature about Pachuco is the “beer bongs” hanging up above the bar. I didn’t see anyone take down a beer bong that evening, but you know those are getting used, especially later on in the evening as it seems to naturally shift from restaurant to party spot.

Service and atmosphere

By and large, the service was solid. The staff was responsive, fun and polite without being overbearing. They were cool with us checking out the kitchen and they even gave us a round of tequila shots on the house. There was one instance where we had to ask more than once for a drink we had ordered, but, to be fair, it was a busy Saturday night. Also, food came dish by dish, presumably as it was finished cooking, but as irritating as that can be, it’s also par for the course in Taiwan.

The restaurant is small, so it fills up pretty easy. Most of the guests were Taiwanese, although there was my group and another mixed group with a handful of expats. The crowd was relatively young, but like young professionals rather than college kids. They have a few flat screens for sports, and a DJ setup behind the bar.

DJ

The music is actually one of the biggest draws — they have tremendous DJs playing awesome music you don’t often hear in trendy places in Taipei. They do mostly hip hop, but there was some soul and funk playing before the DJ started spinning. It added a lot to the atmosphere and made it almost like a lounge rather than a bar or a restaurant. My whole group enjoyed it.

With that said, at least early in the evening, the music was too loud. Over dinner, I feel like most people want to be able to have a conversation without raising their voices, but we all had to. Good music and people actively appreciating it are Pachuco’s selling points, but it was a bother while we were still eating and trying to chat.

In conclusion

As I mentioned, Pachuco stands apart from other Mexican restaurants in Taipei. The ingredients are better, the dishes are better prepared, and it has a good bar. Mexican food is rare in Taiwan, so for a long time, bland burritos that fall apart and skimp on the cheese came to be expected. Pachuco is a breath of fresh air in that regard. It’s also a great spot to unwind and enjoy an evening over a sangria or margarita. Or maybe even a Jager Grenade if you’re feeling spry.

*

Pachuco Mexican Dining Bar

Address: Civic Blvd., Sec. 4, No. 147 (市民大道四段147號)
Hours: 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
“Taco Monday” promotion — three tacos for NT$150. Delivery available daily until 1 a.m.

The author was invited by the restaurant to write the review and was given a discount on the meal. He agreed to review the restaurant under the condition that the review would be accurate and unedited, and not as a promotion for the restaurant.

All photos are by Adam Hatch.

Editor: Olivia Yang

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