Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: Ponchito's Taqueria

Name: Ponchito's Taqueria
Address: 3800 New Court Ave, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Northside (Lyncourt)
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Mexican, Latin American
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Wednesday 7 AM to 9 PM, Thursday 7 AM to 11 PM, Friday 7 AM to 3 AM, Saturday Noon to 3 AM
Parking: Private Lot
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: Yes

Opened in February of 2007, Ponchito's Taqueria is a family owned and operated Mexican-style roadside eatery that has been serving up huge burritos to Syracusans for a couple of years now. The location is a bit out on the outskirts of the city. Unless I'm mistaken, Ponchito's is technically outside of the Syracuse limits and more specifically in Lyncourt, but for the sake of the blog, I'm including it because it's practically right on the edge (similar situation to Eva's).

OK. Let's be honest - the place is a hole in the wall. A crappy TV hovers over the seating area playing reruns of Seinfeld as you walk in and take in the surroundings. The interior is small, dingy, and fluorescent lights line the ceiling. Honestly, I'm reminded of Joe's office from Joe Versus The Volcano. It's a plastic forks and paper plates joint with cafeteria-style ordering so don't expect to be led to a table that receives waiter service. It's primarily take-out oriented, but there are some tables if you decide to eat-in.

The counter area gives you a good impression of what kind of fillings there are. The meat is fresh here and never frozen. And some of it, like the braised pork, is simmered in a beer broth - which makes the whole place smell so good as you make up your mind on what to order on the board behind the counter.

The menu is pretty cool - you have your standard offerings like burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, and then unique things like gringos and platos. These are all made to order and can come with a choice of ground beef "just like your mom's", carnitas, steak, chicken, or grilled vegetables. And if you have the craving in the morning on your way to work, Ponchito's also offers breakfast burritos (like a chorizo-egg burrito).

The order...

Steak Burrito: $7
Chicken Taco: $4.15
Small Pappas Fritas: $1
Jarritos Fruit Punch: $1.57
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $14.82

Pictured above is a chile-rubbed steak burrito with rice, beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce in a flour tortilla.

It was a tasty burrito and an insanely large portion size for being just a "regular" but I thought there was way too much meat inside and not enough beans, salsa, sauce, guacamole, etc... Not that all the ingredients have to be perfectly proportioned or anything, but this was close to 80% meat and 20% fillings. This has happened on several occasions, so I suppose if you prefer burritos this way, you may love them here. That all being said, the steak was good: Chile rubbed and very tender and juicy, but also a little salty and greasy. The other ingredients were good - the salsa tasted fresh and the guacamole was good and creamy. But again, I just wish there were more of them as I think it would have balanced out everything a bit better. The meat was just a bit overbearing. (Is that blasphemous?).

I really liked the taco: shredded, marinated, and roasted chicken, pico de gallo, hot sauce, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and pickled jalapenos all in a hot, corn tortilla. This was great. Also, props for having corn tortillas.

The pappas fritas were interesting (essentially, potato chips). I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered them, but I liked them - fresh, warm, crispy, with just a little bit of salt. It was a really nice accompaniment to the burrito and taco.

All of this was washed down with a fruit punch Jarritos (Mexican pure-sugar cane soda) and it was awesome. I know Ponchito's doesn't necessarily make these, but they get serious props for selling them. It's a not too carbonated soda and just a nice, sweet, subtle and fruity thirst-quencher to the meal.

I don't know why we don't make good soda here in the States. Seems like Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas taste so much better when they come from Mexico and are served in glass bottles. Probably the sugar. But I digress...

A few other things of note...

- Service was so-so. Seems like every review I read online raves about the friendly service, but I just haven't found that. Not that they're rude or anything. They seem nice, but it just seems to come off as semi-oblivious as to what's going on and a tad out-of-touch with trying to make food for the customer. A good example: I was asked three times what kind of beans I wanted. Honestly, it's not really a big deal. Maybe it's just a fluke thing or I'm unlucky on my visits or something.

- You'll probably receive your food in a paper bag, but no worries as they have napkins, forks, and paper plates along the side of the counter.

- If you plan on going to this place during the late hours, they sometimes have run out of meat options by then. (Though, that's good news because that means business is good!).

- Although the tacos and burritos are cheap to start off, they can get a little pricey if you keep adding toppings.

- I love the wall-mounted bottle cap opener at the counter that you have to use to open soda bottles.

- There's various hot sauces scattered around on the tables if you feel like kicking your food up a notch or two.

I suppose f I had to change a few things about this place, it would be....

- You can't see the ingredients / condiments, nor can you see your food being made, as everything sans meat is hidden behind the counter. I tend to be partial to seeing my food being made when it comes to things like sandwiches, salads, burritos, etc... I think it also helps the customer to be a bit more informed of what's going in, how much of each ingredient is going in, and what kind of options there are.

- I understand it's a road-side taqueria and not fine-dining, but I think the interior could use a good cleaning. It's just a really dingy atmosphere. I have no problem eating in a run-down place, but it just struck me as a bit TOO run-down here if you catch my drift.

- Going along with the being-able-to-see-your-ingredients-theme, I feel like they should offer a couple of additional salsas - and maybe even various kinds of guacamole. I mean, yes, it's a small place that primarily focuses on quick, down-home style food, but maybe adding a few more creative toppings could really propel this place a bit further.

Overall, I liked it here - don't let my low rating fool you. It's a great place to stop in for lunch if you are craving large portions and meaty burritos. Ponchito's does get deductions for an awkward interior, being located in the middle of nowhere, and I think it could use some work in making the customer feeling a bit more comfortable and in-tune with what's going on with their order. But gets points for a nice menu, good Mexican and Latin American style food, large portions, and being a good lunch and late-night eats destination.

My rating of Ponchito's Taqueria:

Your rating of Ponchito's Taqueria:


Jim Johnson said...

They don't have them listed on the menu anymore, but they also serve Dr. Pepper chicken wings. I shit you not... best wings I've ever had. I've had them multiple times to make sure that I wasn't being overly dramatic with a flavor that was new to me.

Also, the fried corn-on-the-cob served with lime wedges is just stupid good.

As for being open late... this is a place that clearly caters to businesses during the weekday and the stoner crowd at night.

JoeBass123 said...


thanks for the heads up on the corn on the cob. and as for the wings, i wasn't going to try them until i heard from someone who has. i'll take your word for it and try them out on my next visit. they sound interesting.

Jim Johnson said...

Yeah, I didn't really taste anything Dr. Peppery about it until I finished them up and let out a satisfied burp and said, "Oh! Ok, there it is."