Are you turkey-ed out yet?
Get the bird – what size? Fresh or frozen? Shop for the best deal. How to cook it – stuffed or unstuffed? How about deep fried? Get up early to get it going. Days, decisions, and it’s all done in about 30 minutes. (Except for the dishes.)
Now, it’s the leftovers. Anybody have turkey hash this morning? How about turkey soup for lunch? Some clever cooks combine the remaining turkey and veggies for a twist on shepherd’s pie, crowned with leftover mashed potatoes.
After all that fixing and fussing, wouldn’t it be nice to escape the kitchen and go in a different culinary direction, maybe south of the border?
You can do it by heading west to Odenton, to Pachanga Grill, “where every meal is a fiesta,” they like to say.
Belying its location in a small strip shopping center, the décor is festive, with adobe-colored walls, shutters and wrought-iron railings, and twinkle-stars overhead.
According to their website, “puh-chang-ga” has a variety of meanings along the same lines: fiesta; rowdy party; lively party binge, bash; loud festivity; boisterous diversion. In short, it’s a place to clink margarita glasses and have a good time.
That’s what my daughter and future son-in-law do there on “date night.” It’s become one of their local go-to places, just as Broadneck Grill in Cape St. Claire is for Emily’s dad and me. There’s a shared history between the two places – Fernando Duran owns Pachanga Grill while his ex-wife, Donna Duran, is the proprietor of Broadneck Grill.
Having been open for almost 20 years now, it’s clear Pachanga has a good thing going.
Emily and I stopped there recently for happy hour following a long walk on one of these warm fall days. The lure of an icy margarita was too much to resist. Fortunately, on that Tuesday, as in all Tuesdays, house margaritas by the glass, fish bowl or pitcher, were half-price. Beer lovers are covered on Mondays, when Mexican bottles are sold at domestic prices.
Others had the same idea, as the outdoor patio was filled nearly to capacity. While traffic whizzed by just feet away, I asked Emily what she likes so much about the place.
“They don’t chinch you on the margaritas,” she said. I agree they were robust, although a bit sweet for my taste. Also, I’d prefer a margarita glass to a beer mug. Minor point!
“The chips are thin but hard, so they don’t break when you scoop. And their salsa has a good spice to it,” she added, as we dug into the thin-hard chips and salsa, made fresh each morning, that were placed before us.
The menu is extensive, with multiple options in all the standard categories, from fajitas to enchiladas to tacos, burritos and chimichangas. Fernando mentioned the weekday specials and specialties of the house, including their Chamorro, a seasoned lamb fore-shank in adobo sauce ($21.50) and rainbow trout Veracruz, featuring a fresh whole trout grilled with onions, tomatoes, capers, olives and white wine ($19.95), to name just two.
“We’re not just an enchilada and tacos place,” he said. Believe it! They also have an extensive lunch menu and serve brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with mimosas and Bloody Mary’s or Maria’s (using tequila).
Our friendly waitress, who was juggling many tables, circled a few times before I settled on an a la carta pork enchilada with spicy green tomato sauce and sour cream ($5.25). If I’d eaten fewer chips, I would have gotten the whole platter which comes with Mexican rice and black beans ($15.75).
The slow-roasted pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Wrapped in a warm tortilla, it was soft, cheesy, flavorful Mexican comfort food.
Emily went with her standard – the fajita salad with grilled chicken ($12.95). Grilled steak or shrimp are other options. It was a generous salad served in a tortilla bowl. The chicken was well seasoned and plentiful.
We thought her side of guacamole ($4.50) was just ok. I like a guac with a nice garlic-lime bite, and this one was rather mild.
Emily’s fiancé John, a big guy with an appetite to match, often orders the chicken burrito grande topped with ranchera sauce and melted cheese ($15.75).
“You will never leave feeling hungry,” he said, adding that the value and casual, family-friendly vibe keep he and Emily coming back. I hope to come back with them, maybe on a Tuesday night for live music.
If you’re tired of turkey, or your regular cooking routine, mix it up with some good Mexican fare at Pachanga Grill. Whether it’s “Girls Night Out,” date night, or a quick lunch for one, a “puh-chang-ga” party can lift the spirits as we head into this darker, colder time of year. Arriba!
WHERE: 8395 Piney Orchard Pkwy, Odenton, MD 21113
HOURS: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Sunday Brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
OWNER: Fernando Duran
KITCHEN MANAGER: Alex Figueroa
APPETIZERS: $9.25 to $12.95;
SOUPS/SALADS: $4.95 to $15.25;
ENTREES: $13.95 to $22.75;
SUNDAY BRUNCH: $9.25 to $13.50
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards