Established in 1992, Pepe’s Mexican Express has been a mainstay in northern Nashville’s Rivergate Mall. This mall has no shortage of food options, most of which are local places, too. With so much competition, it’s certainly impressive to see a 20-year-veteran still going strong. The cashiers seem to recognize everybody walking by, and more than a few times the line is slowed by people striking up a conversation. Now, I’m not a regular at this mall; I’m not even really from around here, often as I may be in this city. But I’m going to have to say the food, and its prep practices, do not have me convinced.
Everything about Pepe’s gives it the quaint look and feel of a budget tex-mex dive. It’s got an impressive menu of delicious favorites, tacos and burritos, chimichangas and flautas. The same kind of menu of a full service restaurant, and certainly more selection than the average mall vendor. The tortillas are crispy and there are plenty of vegetables about them, but the meat is a little plain. It needs more seasoning to stand out. Kind of average, like the kind of taco you could make at home. What’s really strange to me, the place has a bunch of non-Mexican dishes; chicken strips and fries. A BLT. I suppose it makes sense when you see those things on the menu in a restaurant, but there are three other sandwich places in sight. Consequently, the fries are bland, while I do like them with the queso and they are made fresh,
There is one thing that really irked me when I gave the place a try: they brought over a big bowl with all the fried food at once; so my fries and the next guy’s chicken strips did a little mingling. It’s a nitpick to be offended by this, and I would certainly hope the chicken and the fries are cooked in different fryers, but unfortunately in this case, it made the fries taste funny. Kind of like…chicken. Oh, and there were little pieces of chicken all over them. Not great, but maybe that’s just me.
The people are certainly nice enough; being such a longstanding business they’ve probably made more than a few fans from the mall’s other employees, so it wasn’t surprising. It slowed down service though.
In all, I would consider Pepe’s about average as mall food may go, though I can imagine some might disagree. Non chain tex-mex options in the mall are all to rare, so it’s initially exciting to try something like this. I just wish the food rose a little more to the occasion.
- Stick with the tex-mex food; I’m not impressed with the Americana options inexplicably on the menu.
- There’s a “$3.99 lunch special” you might want to know about…but in general all of the food is pretty inexpensive.
- The queso is good, though the fries are not, so you might want to find other things to try with the delicious molten cheese.