Don Bauder 8:42 p.m., May 23
I won't claim that Los Panchos is the best taco shop in town, not by a long shot. The most accurate assessment I have is that the food there is totally hit or miss. I've been both delighted and disgusted by my meals there. But one thing is for certain, their fish rolled taco plate is incredible.
The restaurant displays a sign that says their food "isn't fast food, [they] just make it fast." Fair enough, though with the drive-thru service and the general appearance of the place, it's hard to not think of Panchos as a fast-food place. The generally low prices don't dispel that image, either, but they also don't hurt at all.
But, hey, give them the benefit of the doubt and stop by for a fish rolled taco plate ($4.25), it's a splendid dish. The preparation mirrors the conventional "five rolled tacos" special that's so commonplace, but the little differences put this plate into a class of its own. Instead of guacamole, there's an unusual but thoroughly delicious tartar sauce smothering the tacos. Lettuce gets replaced with shredded cabbage, and there's still plenty of cheese and salsa. The net effect is phenomenal and something I haven't seen replicated elsewhere (though if it has been, I long to try another take on this delight). It has everything that's to love about fish n chips, plus the incredible edibility of taquitos. It is one of those rare, perfect dishes where everything comes together as a sublime synthesis of flavor, texture, and novelty.
Now, before I stand accused of layering endless praise on Panchos, I will say that I've been let down there numerous times. I recently ate a surf n turf burrito there that completely underwhelmed me, and I had a "creamy chipotle burrito" at one point that I couldn't finish for the richness. The seven seas soup at Panchos, however, is both generous with the seafood and enormous. Costing nearly $10, it's not an insane deal by any stretch of the imagination, but it's really quite good and ultimately worth it.
At the end of the day, I can't recommend the entire menu at Los Panchos, though I can encourage others to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to experiment. The fish rolled tacos, on the other hand, are a sure win. Also, the salsa bar is exceptionally well stocked with veggies and sauces in which to dip them.
409 Washington Street