By Caroline Curtis
My family loves Mexican food. We have no real ties to our neighbors to the South, but like many Americans, we just love the food. Ever since I was little, I remember going to various Mexican restaurants in the Richmond area. We used to live in Short Pump, and every Friday night we would go to Casa Grande, a Mexican restaurant in the Short Pump area. I grew up with the staff there, and they watched my family grow; we would always sit in the same booth at the back left of the restaurant and would always have the same waitress.
When a new Mexican restaurant opened on the other side of Short Pump and the Casa Grande staff began to migrate there, so did we. We instantly fell in love Rico’s smaller atmosphere and once again became close to the staff. But as my three sisters and I became busier and free Friday nights became less frequent, it was harder to return to Rico’s so often.
Then, in 2015, my family moved to the West End to be closer to Collegiate. Unfortunately, this move brought us farther away from Short Pump and Rico’s. For a year and a half, we were too busy to return to our Friday night ritual and could not find a closer Mexican restaurant. Luckily, one night in 2016, my father came home from work particularly excited. He and his colleagues had found another Mexican restaurant; this new restaurant provided an urban vibe while also serving delicious Mexican food.
Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant is located in Chesterfield, on Midlothian Turnpike. The family atmosphere provides an enjoyable experience, with incredible food that is unrivaled. Pepe’s has since become our “regular” Friday night spot.
The outside of Pepe’s does not correctly exemplify the quality of the food or the service. The plain exterior is painted yellow, with blue paneling on the roof; the lights hung on the left patio attempt to brighten the rough fencing and the addition to the right side of the building seems out of place. But once you walk inside, you are met with a bustling waiting area and quiet Mexican music playing in the background. The restaurant is split into two parts; the one on the left is an open area with larger tables to seat bigger parties, and the one on the right is a tighter space with smaller tables.
Almost immediately after being seated, a smiling man brings over chips, salsa, and white sauce; this is the start of our meal. The chips were warm and fresh, as they had just come out of the fryer, so they blended perfectly with the cool salsa and white sauce. The salsa had just the right amount of spice to where it was noticeable, but it did not leave me reaching for my water. So for somebody who can not take intense heat, it was perfect. On this visit, decided to try Pepe’s signature burrito: The Chesterfield—a delicious choice.
The Chesterfield—a flour tortilla filled with pork carnitas, chipotle dressing, rice and beans, all covered in queso and topped with the house-made chorizo—arrived less than ten minutes later. The burrito was massive, and I immediately knew there was no way I would be able to finish it. My dad ordered chicken nachos, my mom ordered the Combo #1 (two enchiladas, a beef taco, rice and beans), two of my sisters ordered cheese nachos, and my youngest sister ordered a Kids #2 (one enchilada, rice and beans). Just in my first bite I could taste all of the spices and the array of flavors, from the queso to the carnitas. My youngest sister, Alexandra (’27), celebrating her birthday, described her enchilada as “very cheesy” and the sauce topping “was delicious.”
Alexandra’s birthday dinner at Pepe’s was a success, and our family has finally found a Friday night Mexican spot once again. Another one of my younger sisters, Madelyn (’23), loves “how there is such a family atmosphere and all of the waiters and waitresses are so nice and welcoming.” I look forward to spending great family time at Pepe’s while enjoying more of the delicious food.
All photos by Caroline Curtis.