It may be unfair to judge a book by its cover but it's more than appropriate to factor in the facade of a restaurant to your overall impression. Perhaps even more important to a judgment call, though perhaps highly controversial, is the other clientele. Without taking a single bite of food and basing the assessment solely upon the exterior, interior decor, and the other patrons, I'll confidently assert that Pepe's Hacienda is the most authentic Mexican restaurant in the entire First Coast region.
You know those gas stations with a McDonald's or Subway in them? Pepe's Hacienda is one of those except that rather than being inside a gas station, it's inside a Mexican grocery market that looks to be the location of a former convenience store. Brightly colored piñatas hang from the ceiling while large screen televisions loudly play different Mexican channels. Additionally, Pepe's gets the seal of a approval from the local Mexican expatriates; a hard won honor in these parts.
You'll find much of your standard Mexican food here as well as a few intriguing additions. There's the massive burrito, the size of which puts most local burrito joints to shame at a mere fraction of the cost. And while it's perhaps not as tasty as the more Americanized options, it's definitely a shining example of an authentic burrito with enough calories to last you an entire day. The tacos are also pretty good and, like everything else on the menu, incredibly inexpensive.
For the more adventurous and curious types, you can get your tacos and burritos stuffed with strange delicacies such as beef tongue or tripe. Never one to pass up an oddity, I ordered a beef tongue taco. While it isn't something I'd go out of my way to seek, the flavor was interesting and paired well with the fresh onions and cilantro.
Despite the mildly uninviting exterior, anyone who enjoys Mexican cuisine has no excuse for not checking out Pepe's Hacienda. As sketchy as it may seem at first glance, the people, food, and prices could not be more inviting.
Pepe's Hacienda & Restaurant
3615 Dupont Ave Ste 900
Jacksonville, FL 32217