Prior to having gastric bypass surgery, I might have LOVED eating at Don Pablo’s. As with many Mexican restaurants, the portions here are large, generally covered in cheese, and served by request with a huge, fruit flavored Margarita. Since having gastric bypass surgery, my success with finding things I can eat at Don Pablo’s – or many other Mexican restaurants – has been limited.
Today, fortunately, was a fairly successful visit. To begin with, I have NO trouble eating the chips and salsa – not necessarily a good thing. We were promptly seated at a booth in the nearly empty restaurant, and after taking our drink order, our waitress brought us a heaping basket of warm tortilla chips and two small bowls of salsa. Jim quickly tucked in to one of the bowls, and I positioned the other in between Eilis and I, but soon found I was the only one dipping my chips. The chips here are fresh, served toasty warm and pleasantly salted, and come with a mild, just chunky enough salsa.
In my past experiences eating here, I have learned that the steak and chicken served with the fajitas is usually too tough for me to eat and digest properly, so I have to skip them. The soups and the chilis are generally too spicy, and I was not a fan of spicy prior to gastric bypass surgery. The surgery and the increased risk of stomach ulcers is a good enough excuse for me to skip the spicier foods here. The guacamole shrimp cocktail the one time I had it proved to be tough to get down. The shrimp was overcooked, rubbery and cold, and the guacamole reminded me of the gross green vomit from The Exorcist. The fat content in the enchiladas and burritos frightens me away without even trying them, and on many of my other visits here, I have found myself eating just queso dip with more chips. Today, I venture into Don Pablo’s world of salads.
Not being the adventurous type, I ask the waitress about the spiciness of the taco salad. She says if I have no trouble eating the salsa, I should do fine with it, so I take a chance and order it. The salad can be ordered with either the spicy ground beef or grilled chicken, but having struggled through chicken dishes here in the past, I opt for the ground beef version of the dish. The salad – served in a crispy tortilla bowl (yeah, I had a bite or two) – is a very typical salad, but for my purposes, it was just perfect. The lettuce was finely shredded, and all of the vegetables were diced small. The dish is advertised with sauteed onions and peppers, but I only found a few strongly flavored onions and nary a pepper in mine. I ordered ranch dressing on the side, in case the beef was spicy enough to need a ranch cool down, but the meat was mildly spiced – enough that you knew you were eating taco meat, but not so spicy you sat with your eyes watering down your iced tea as you gulped. The dish also contains what Don Pablo’s refers to as “refritos” – refried pinto beans – although the portion in mine was limited to a thin coating on the bottom of the tortilla bowl. It comes with one small scoop of sour cream and another of guacamole, but if you are watching your fats closely, you can either easily scoop those off yourself or ask that they be left off of the dish. I mixed the guacamole in with my salad, while leaving the scoop of sour cream pretty much intact.
After eating about half of the salad, I was definitely full. I recommend that you ask for a box immediately, and remove half of the salad for later. If you eat your taco salad like I do, you mix all of the ingredients together to eat them, and that doesn’t make for good left overs. Take half away before you mix the wet tomatoes in with the crisp lettuce, and you have a chance of making this last for another meal.
I cannot rave about Don Pablo’s restaurant because I find it difficult to find food there that works for me, however, by sticking with something simple and basic like the taco salad, I was able to eat a pleasant – although nothing spectacular – meal with my family.
And for the record – the steak and chicken served with the two orders of fajitas WAS overcooked, and would have been virtually impossible for me to eat.