Nearly two years in the making, Pepe's Ranch, the baby brother of Deep Ellum Tex-Mex favorite Pepe & Mito's, opened this week on Main Street where it's serving breakfast and lunch from 7 am to 3 pm.
The Ranch, which took over the old Velvet Hookah space at Main and Crowdus, opened quietly on Monday April 8 with a menu that combines Tex-Mex classics with owners Sandy and Pedro Rojas' home-cooking favorites.
At the top of the list: chicken-fried steak, pot roast and fideo con pollo soup. Entrees include pork chop, grilled or fried fish, brisket enchiladas, a Pepe's burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and avocado, and torta sandwiches with blackened chicken or smoked carnitas.
Two homey enchilada-type dishes evoke Pepe & Mito's: entomatadas, filled with queso fresco, and enfrijoladas filled with black beans and topped with stewed tomato sauce. Those come with a Pepe & Mito's-style cilantro rice and black beans.
There are three salads and three excellent soups: cream of chipotle with corn kernels, carrot and avocado; fideo con pollo, like a Mexican version of chicken noodle soup; and potato chowder with crumbled bacon and grated cheddar cheese. Starters include nachos, queso, chili and jalapeno poppers.
As for breakfast, Sandy describes it as "Mexican plus American, too." Highlights include nine breakfast tacos including chorizo-and-egg, grilled chicken, and rajas (sauteed Mexican cheese, onions and poblano peppers). And they are doing their own version of ultra-trendy chicken-and-waffles, with fried chicken tenders, drizzled with raspberry chipotle glaze.
There are chilaquiles – tortillas, chorizo and eggs served with beans. Traditional breakfast options include eggs with hash browns and choice of meat such as ham, pork chop, rib eye or CFS, plus omelets, pancakes and French toast.
The Rojas did much of the decor themselves, utilizing artfully oxidized metal and weathered wood they recycled from an old barn. There's an amusing obsession with lamps, from the '50s-style circular lampshades that hang from the ceiling to a row of table lamps lined up along the back of the wall banquette. The DIY project is part of why it took them so long to open. They also had a good problem at Pepe & Mito's, where business went a little crazy after they appeared last year on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-ins & Dives.
Deep Ellum veteran Kim Moseley, former owner of Kim's Cafe, is serving as manager. She said they'll be expanding their hours to open for dinner in about a month.