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Nostalgia is on offer at Paco’s Mexican Restaurant. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Paco’s Mexican Restaurant

1508 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-759-9110. 10am-3pm Sun, 7:30am-2:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

When Paco and John’s closed a couple of years ago, you could almost hear the collective groans from neighbors on West Magnolia Avenue and in the Hospital District. Folks across Tarrant County loved the quirkiness of the Mexican food with a definitive French accent by co-owners Francisco Islas and Bernard Tronche. Fast-forward to last month, when Islas opened his eagerly awaited Paco’s Mexican Cuisine in the space that used to house both Nha Trang Vietnamese Cuisine and Temaki Sushi. As I was idly chatting about the location with Islas’ son, the namesake for both restaurants, he mentioned that the family looked for a turnkey-ready establishment as they planned their return. If that means they kept the sweet, sherbet-colored décor from Temaki circa 2011, so be it.

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The handicap for Islas is that many people appear to be completely nostalgic about his previous restaurant. This matters because some of the offerings at Paco’s are uneven and unremarkable. Take the queso fundido –– the appetizer could best be described as Velveeta-esque and fairly bland. The red salsa, which had a delightfully subtle, complex flavor after you got used to the hefty after-burn, did wonders to liven up the dip, which solidified to a chip-breaking paste mid-meal.

The bacon burrito, available all day on the weekends, was a generous serving of potatoes, eggs, cheese, and shards of crispy bacon wrapped in an oversized flour tortilla. The lavish portion of spuds made the whole thing a tad bland, but the aforementioned red salsa also jazzed it up. From the street taco menu, the squash, onion, and zucchini veggie ratatouya was a delight for the taste buds and didn’t need any help from either the red or the milder green tomatillo salsa.

From the lunch menu, I hoped to try the Caesar salad, because anytime the menu warns that the dressing is made the old-fashioned way (with raw egg), it’s a win for the palate. Unfortunately, even after the opening week rush, when the menu items should have been solidified, there was no Caesar salad available.

The enchiladas were two street taco-sized folded-over corn tortillas stuffed with your choice of veggies, meat, or cheese. The spinach enchiladas tasted surprisingly like the ones I ate at Paco and John’s. The spinach was a little al dente (which is good) and the white jack cheese was deliciously creamy and melty. The enchiladas come topped with either a red or green hue. The green tomatillo tasted piquant and rich. The red sauce looked like a mole that had fallen into a vat of red dye No. 3 –– the chile paste was thick and pretty unpleasant. The plate came with bland refried beans and unremarkable rice.

The brisket torta, ordered to go, was just a hot mess. The brisket was flavorful and neither stringy nor chewy, but the torta had an inexcusable amount of thick, goopy mayo (which was easy to scrape off) on one side of the bun and more of the bland beans (not so easy to dislodge) on the other. To make matters worse, the fries that the menu promised would accompany the sandwich were M.I.A.

Don’t get me wrong –– I am delighted that a good chef is back mere blocks from where he left off, and there’s nothing wrong with the service or the atmosphere. A couple of the dishes hark back to the good old days, but some of the menu at Paco’s needs work to reach the chef’s former heights.

Paco’s Mexican Restaurant
Bacon burrito     $3.50
Street tacos    $3.00
Queso fundido     $4.95
Enchiladas     $8.95
Brisket torta     $7.95

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