"This place is more Mexican than Cabo," said a woman who was dining with co-workers at Paquito's Mexican Restaurant during a weekday lunch.
Looking around at the colorful, over-the-top décor, I understood exactly what she meant. It was kitschy and charming, but like Cabo San Lucas, I feared it would fall into the tourist trap category -- trite and not too tasty. I checked in on Foursquare, and friends immediately urged me to head down the street to try the more refined and understated Cheen Huaye.
But my guests and I ignored the naysayers. Instead, we went to town on the complimentary chips and flavorful salsa. Then we began exploring the menu, which is as vast as the sprawling rooms in this enormous restaurant.
After polishing off nearly all the tortilla chips, we made our final decisions: sopa de albondiguitas and a chicken chimichanga.
I'm a soup and meatball lover, so I had high hopes for the albondiguitas. But the balls were rather tasteless -- no spices or flavor. The broth and veggies had the consistency of a can of Campbell's condensed soup before you mix in the water.
Still, we wrote this off as bad ordering. Surely, a deep-fried burrito could save the meal.
Although it was a pretty dish, the chicken chimichanga ($7.95) was not our saving grace. It resembled a horizontal Mexican flag -- with a green stripe made of guacamole, a white one of crema, and the red sauce as the backdrop. This burrito was all oil and no crisp. It was in definite need of more time in the fryer.
Not even the pretty toppings could save it. The rice was dry, the chimichanga was soggy with grease, and that glorious Mexican flag of a dish just stood sadly at half-mast.
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Moving here from California, I knew I would be sacrificing some quality in Mexican food but making up for it with delicious cuisine from other Latin American countries. Although this meal was pretty bad, Paquito's ambiance and service were enjoyable.
Ultimately, the place ended up being as authentic as a tourist trap in Cabo. If you want authentic Mexican food, head to Los Magueyes in Hialeah. If you want a fiesta, Paquito's might be your place. Their Thursday karaoke is reputed to be a blast. But I'd probably have to be pretty drunk to indulge.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst