Pedro’s combines the best of both Tex-Mex and rustic style Mexican cuisine in a festive setting, specializing in the kind of drinks you’d expect to go with them.
I feel fortunate that, even though I am a few days late for their Day of the Dead, or Día De Los Muertos, celebration, all of the décor is still completely intact at Pedros. The holiday, which pays homage to both festive Aztec traditions blended with the decidedly less jovial superstitions brought to them by “visiting” Spanish Conquistadors, prompts a moody display consisting of colorful paper flowers, skeletons, and crosses – a perfect backdrop for aggressively sipping tequila and working my way through a large portion of the menu.
Founded by Pete “Pedro” Morency, who earned his nickname through decades spent working in predominantly Latino kitchens, the restaurant features what is actually a very diverse array of Mexican cuisine. Yes, there are the “gringo” favorites like queso fundido, nachos, and quesadillas, all of these things being perfectly delicious, but further investigation reveals a wealth of more rustic, country style dishes from regions like Puebla and Oaxaca.
Take, for instance, the Pollo con Mole, arguably Oaxaca’s most famous dish. At Pedros they utilize the prerequisite myriad of ingredients for the sauce, among the 27 ingredients being coffee, cumin, coriander, piloncillo sugar, walnuts, peanuts, Mexican chocolate and a mix of pasilla, ancho, and guajillo chilies. What makes their version particularly good is that chef Jon Bagley roasts the chicken rather than stewing it in the sauce, this preserves the delicate, crispy skin of the bird, which provides a nice contrast against the rich, burnished color of the mole.
Although the beverage program is diverse, with very good cocktails and a nice selection of refreshing Mexican beers like Bohemia and Pacifico, I cannot help but gravitate to the tequila list. Personally I would consider myself a Reposado drinker, as I enjoy the slight mellowing from age coupled with the spritely kick from the agave, and I often find that Anejo tequilas take on characteristics that almost remind me of scotch. That being said, on this visit I go with an old stand-by, the Don Julio Reposado. It has notes of vanilla, though not overpoweringly so, with a mellow heat and a long finish of caramel and spice.
The tequila is perfect with a platter of Barbacoa tacos, made with brisket that has been gently simmered with an intoxicating blend of chipotle, brown sugar, and Coca-Cola. What results is incredibly succulent meat, with a texture reminiscent of pork carnitas, though that dish is cooked in it’s own fat, making it more impressive to achieve such a consistency with only the braising liquids. It is served with charred corn on the cob, grilled onions, and slow-cooked pinto beans, all of which contribute to making this dish very moreish. On request they will provide the option of two hot sauces, made in-house, the green one being milder while the red heats up from being laced with fruity habanero peppers.
Along the same lines are the Chicken Tinga tacos, which are also slowly cooked in tomato, cumin, coriander, garlic, and chipotle. I will admit that I am more accustomed to seeing this dish made with pork, but this version is delicious nonetheless, with a mélange of flavors that are sweet, smoky, and rich. Adding some “roughage” to the assault of meat dishes is a salad of baby spinach with red onion, almonds, and tangy smoked tomato vinaigrette, accompanied by an orb of deep fried, chipotle-crusted goat cheese for good measure.
Desserts err on the side of the classics, most notably the sweet, creamy-orange flan. It is, as to be expected, a soothing and refreshing finish to the meal. On the other side of the spectrum are the Churros, which are thick, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and served with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. The shape is more akin to the common American-style cruller, and upon taking the first bite I am unable to declare anything but that it tastes like “Cinnamon Toast Crunch on steroids.” I mean this in a very, very good way.
As the night wanes on, and my glass is continually refilled, the music gets louder and it would appear as is the whole place had woken up. The bar gets busier, even on a cold Tuesday night in November, with a crew of happy locals, finally getting a breath of fresh air form the seemingly never-ending barrage of tourists during the summer and fall months. This style of cuisine seems fitting for everything about this situation, as it imparts warmth and doesn’t take much to fill the belly, perfect for the long winter ahead.
181 Port Road | Kennebunk | (207) 967-5544 | pedrosmaine.com