It's Miss O's birthday and time to take her out for a big dinner. She gets to pick the place to go, I'll pay and go wherever she wants, unless it's sushi which she knows I'm not a fan of. This years selection was West of Pecos, a place I vaguely remember walking by on Valencia one time but not knowing much about. It's a Southwestern themed restaurant opened by the guys who brought us the Woodhouse Fish Company, a place I'd been to ages ago but haven't reviewed (hmm...maybe I should go again). Anyway, I perused the menu online and it's that standard San Francisco menu--chicken dish, pork chop, steak, etc., but with the whole Southwest twist-ish yet served in California (get it--we are west of Pecos) which screams large portions to me and, well, I'm always up for a big hunk of meat so let's chow down. Located on the Valencia strip with loads of other options this place seemed to have a decent crowd in the bar area for a Wednesday night, yet the restaurant part was pretty much empty and decorated to the hilt with shades of western stuff (and shades of Mexico also thrown in). Plus it was kind of dark, in both wood and lighting--thus please forgive some of my forthcoming pics.
They've really taken the theme literally, but as I've said before it's about the food. We dove into things with two appetizers--carnitas pies and skillet cornbread.
Deep fried pies of slow roasted pork shoulder on top of a nopale-corn salad and a side of chipotle aioli. Deep frying something is like adding bacon, it can always make things taste better and these were no exception. Crispy and hot out of the fryer the pork filling was tender and tasty especially when dipped in the aioli, with its nice little chipotle kick. The corn and nopale salad was sweet, smoky and spicy and surprising the nopale cactus bits were not slimy which can sometimes happen and it tasted pretty good mixed into the pie, maybe they should add that as filling--pork, corn, cactus, chipotle--what could be better? Next was the campfire cornbread skillet served with red chile butter and a side of cider molasses. I liked the presentation and the cornbread was sort of a white and yellow corn mix that was moist and crumbly and would have been even better with plain butter as I was not a fan of the chile butter. It was a little more bitter than spicy and I didn't like it with the cornbread. Same goes for the molasses, which I'm not the biggest fan of to start with, not my flavor profile. But the cornbread was good so there was that. Then came the entrees.
Margaret's grilled pork chop with roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes and Arkansas black apple sauce. This was a perfectly decent dish. The chop was grilled nicely and juicy, the veggies were roasted just a tad of crunch and the apple sauce was gave a tang of sweetness, though what made it Arkansas and black I couldn't tell you. In the grand scheme of things this is good but I can't say it rises above any all the other pork chop dishes on menus in this town. It's a great hearty portion so that's a plus. A nice chunky pork chop that will quell your hunger but not exactly excite your tastebuds.
Here we have the ancho and apricot pork ribs with baked butter beans and whole grain mustard slaw (and why that scallion is draped across the top I couldn't begin to tell you). This was Miss O's choice of entree, she has a thing for ribs, and right off the bat I'll tell you she liked 'em. They were tender, fall off the bone ribs with a decent char along the edges. For me the sauce was too sweet and goopy, totally not a fan. The beans were of the baked barbecue sauce kind, though here it was spicy instead of sweet, they were okay. The slaw added some nice color and crunch, but that was about it, felt more like filler than thought out side dish. But Miss O was good with the dish and it was her birthday so we'll go with what she says. Not being content enough to stop here we got dessert.
Chili spiced chocolate mousse with fresh cream and ginger cookies and key lime pie with fruit compote. The mousse was velvety, chocolatey though I didn't taste much of the chili, every now and then I got a small hit but not enough to make a difference. Still, it was another decent dish that satiated my sugar craving. The key lime pie was everything it should be--tangy, puckery and tart with a fluffy topping of meringue. Though I'm not sure why there was a chocolate drizzle on top, it wasn't really needed. The same with the compote--raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, I mean it was nice but I think the pie stands on its own and didn't need the extra frippery. All in all two fairly decent and filling desserts.
I know, I know, you are thinking how could we eat all that food? Well, I pretty much ate all of mine and some of Miss O's, but she didn't finish all of her entree and took some home for the next days lunch. And that's what you get here, large portion, hearty dishes, that, while not the most exciting or inventive on the local foodie scene, are still good enough to fill you up. West of Pecos is one of those places you go to or take out of towners to when you don't want to think too hard about the food or want something too out there. That's not meant as a knock though, I liked them enough and there's a place for these kind of restaurants in town--a decent neighborhood spot where you know what you are going to get. Take that as you will.