West of Pecos

No, not Law West of the Pecos, that’s Judge Roy Bean, whose life reads like fiction and who was one of the most colorful characters in Texas history, which is saying a lot. Bean was a thief, a robber, a rustler, a murderer, an outlaw, a serial entrepreneur, and a self-appointed judge, but he was not a gourmet, so we’re talking about a different West of Pecos here – the new restaurant on Valencia that Jeff took me to last month.

The folks behind it are the McNiven brothers, the same guys who brought us the Woodhouse Fish Company with its delicately cooked fish and crustaceans and the best clam chowder i’ve eaten since that served in the Officers’ Open Mess at Ft. Devens, Mass in the early sixties.

So what’s West of Pecos like? Well, it’s a cavernous, airy space decorated with a gigantic bull’s head and long ristas hanging from the ceiling. And it’s bustling and noisy but that’s not a prob if you stick your hearing aids in and dial them to “noisy restaurant”. The servers are laid back and helpful.

The food? Well, i’m a Tex-Mex food bigot and very fussy, so luckily this isn’t traditional Tex-Mex. What it is, is a melange of southwestern dishes, most of them done fairly well and some, excellent.

To start, the Grilled Pacific Prawns were superb and taken over the top with a stingy dab of some superb sauce not mentioned in the menu description. The Campfire Cornbread Muffin Skillet suffered from menu overkill, as it isn’t a muffin and for damn sure never saw a campfire, but it was a clever presentation and tasted just divine. Actually, and it pains me to admit this, it was better than my Grandmother’s Cornbread. Well, not much better, and so different that it’s unfair to Grandmother to compare them. I’ll just say that the next day at home i experimented with Grandmother’s recipe in an attempt to duplicate the Campfire Cornbread Muffin Skillet and pulled from the oven something that wasn’t as good as either dish. Stay tuned, as i’m not giving up.

The Crispy Duck Tacos were a major disappointment. Yes, they were crispy, and yes, they had duck in them, but the marriage of flavors was never consummated, and they left me unsatisfied. The Messy Texas Ribs were messy and good, and the coleslaw with them was very good. Alas, they were a pale shadow of the ribs from Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica. The Hearth Roasted Pork Carnitas was good, but it really seemed to me to be a pretty good pulled roast pork rather than carnitas, and you can get better carnitas at many of our taquerias. Like for example Pancho Villa on 16th off Valencia, El Toro at 17th and Valencia, and Zapata at 18th & Collingwood.

And since we’d had two fine dishes and two middling ones, we had to break the tie by splitting an order of flan. How was it? Well, let’s just say that there was a skilled competitor across the table, and i had to eat really fast to get my full share of an excellent and generous dish.

I’ll definitely go back to have the shrimp, the cornbread, and the flan. Besides, there are several items on that menu that i need to try.

Fall foliageMeanwhile, who says we don’t have fall foliage in foggy California. Here’s some across the street from Gloria’s in Santa Rosa:

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