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Dining review: Don Chepo’s brings hipster tacos to Wellington


Taco shops give me menu anxiety. Too many choices send me into default mode: al pastor, please.

That’s pretty much how it played out on a recent lunch break at Don Chepo’s, the newish taco joint that operates in the former Seahorse Fashion Cuisine space in Wellington. Also a member of the Fashion Cuisine family (Oli’s, The Grille, White Horse), Don Chepo’s is the decidedly more hip sibling. 

The menu isn’t huge, but it was varied enough to demand time for proper deliberation. Did I want a taco or a tostada? Battered mahi or adobo chicken? Or… butternut squash? And did I want it on a taco or a tostada? 

Butternut squash on a tostada! Who knew this would be the winning combo? It was as lovely to look at as it was to devour, served atop a liberal smear of refried beans on a crispy, thick-ish tostada. Cubes of roasted butternut squash, crisp romaine shreds, red onions, diced tomatoes and fire-roasted corn heaped on a tostada shell sturdy enough to hold its own. And you get two to an order ($8). 

We did succumb to the default and ordered a pair of tacos al pastor ($9). Served inside a not-overly-thin corn tortilla, these were filled with grilled pork chunks that had been marinated in spicy chile de arbol, pickled red onions, chopped raw onion, caramelized pineapple bits, chorizo and fresh cilantro. It may sound like a heap of ingredients, but these were not overstuffed tacos. They had just enough filling and a nice range of flavors. 

Perhaps these were not the most authentically Mexican tacos I’ve had, but they are delicious and they are fresh. The tortillas are house-made daily and the sauces are made fresh on premises. Wellington diners have come to expect as much from talented executive chef Dustin Parfitt, who is co-owner of Don Chepo’s and nearby Oli’s. 

Now, I should rewind here to the part where we ordered the standard taco-shop starter: chips and salsa. Something to know: They’re not free. At Don Chepo’s, they’ll cost you $5. But the case for ordering them involves three house-made sauces – a bright, fresh pico, a smoky, roasted tomato salsa and a small carafe of hot sauce. 

A more delectable starter was the tamal al pastor ($7), a plump corn masa tamal that’s filled with juicy smoked pork and served in an open corn husk, topped with a thick, savory sauce, crumbled cotija cheese and chopped green onions. This is a hefty bite. Add a side of Mexican rice or beans (black or refried) or a cucumber salad (sides are $3) and you’ve got a filling lunch. 

Quesadilla lovers will find large, oozy renditions here (ranging in price from $8 to $14). We sampled a chicken quesadilla ($10) and instantly we were smitten with the poblano-marinated chicken filling that mingled with three kinds of cheese in a large, toasted flour tortilla. The meat was tender and dressed in a light, natural sauce that reminded me of a delicate tomato sauce. There’s nothing delicate about the portion size – it’s huge. 

If you’d like to try that chicken filling in a different vessel, go for the chicken burrito ($12), which is stuffed with Chihuahua cheese, Mexican rice and black beans. There are bean, pork and steak burritos as well. 

Throughout the menu, there are good options for vegetarians, and those who follow a gluten-free diet. 

But don’t go crazy – you’ll want to save room for the churros ($7). They may not be the prettiest trio of thick, fried-dough cylinders, but they’re served fresh from the fryer and the dough is insane. The churros are crispy and golden outside, but fluffy (almost creamy) inside. Dip them in the accompanying Nutella sauce or dulce de leche sauce for the win. 

We enjoyed our mega-lunch at an outdoor table on Don Chepo’s front patio, which is fringed in potted herbs and chile pepper plants. Inside, it’s dim and cool, the walls adorned with street art. 

There’s a full bar that serves a good range of premium tequila shots and mezcal by the ounce and bottle. A bottle of ultra-premium Clase Azul Ultra tequila will set you back $2500 here; a two-ounce shot of the stuff is priced at $265. But there are plenty of lower-range tequila options (from $7 an ounce up) to consider. 

The bar is put to affordable use during the daily happy (see details in box). But not only grownups get the deals – kids eat free here on Sundays. 

A word about service: To say the place is welcoming seems an understatement. Our server was not only efficient and friendly, she had the patience to guide us through the menu. Come to think of it, she really did help chase my menu anxiety away. 


DEALS: On Sundays, kids age 12 and younger eat free (one free kid’s meal per paid adult entrée) and may enjoy Don Chepo’s sidewalk games. On Mondays, bottomless margaritas cost $20. On Tuesdays, single tacos are $2. At Happy Hour, daily from 4 to 6 p.m., expect $3 beer, wine starting at $3.50 and $3 to $5.50 cocktails. 


REVIEW BOX

WHAT THE GRADES MEAN: 

A — Excellent 

B — Good 

C — Average 

D — Poor 

F — Don’t bother


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