Restaurant News & Reviews

Dining Out: A tip of the sombrero to Señor Sancho’s

My visit to Señor Sancho’s restaurant actually started when I was sitting in my hairdresser’s salon, musing about the Mexican food I used to eat in Southern California, and wishing I could find the same in Paso Robles. She said I didn’t have to go far—Señor Sancho’s. And I am happy I did.

Walking in the door, you feel transported to Baja. Every inch of the walls is decorated with surfboards, colorful flags and banners, and vast amounts of Mexican paraphernalia. And the ceiling isn’t spared, with everything from piñatas to bicycles and inflatable toys hanging just above your head. The atmosphere is definitely meant to put you on the beach in Cabo.

Plenty of menu items

The broad menu will satisfy meat, fish, chicken and veggie lovers alike. Señor Sancho’s mixes the expected Mexican classics with a sprinkling of fresh and healthy choices.

Before you order, you’re greeted with salsa and chips—and these are hot out of the fryer, warm, crunchy and totally addictive. I can’t have a basket of warm chips in front of me without sipping a margarita ($4.50), and Señor Sancho’s version is large, sweet and sour, with a thick rim of coarse salt.

A poster on the wall advertises Happy Hour every Monday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p. m., where margaritas are $3 and the Coronas are half price at $2. Either is a great partner for such appetizers as carnitas tacos, quesadillas and chicken wings.

Dinner

For dinner, I ordered a combination plate: chile relleno, cheese enchilada and beef burrito, along with the rice and refried beans ($12.49). The plate came sizzling hot, with the cheese still bubbling on the plate. The chile and enchilada were up to my Southern California standards, with a great heat level and not overly sauced or greasy. The burrito was not as impressive; it was a bit dry, with beef that lacked much seasoning.

My husband ordered a special: Carnitas Chimichanga ($9.50). This is what I consider perfect Mexican food. The pork was juicy, tender and succulent, and seasoned with many layers of spice. The large burrito was deep-fried to a golden brown, its sinfully crunchy shell topped with smooth guacamole and chopped tomatoes. The contrast of soft-crunchy, hot-cold and mild-spicy was perfectly balanced and just delicious.

On the lighter side

To try something lighter, I returned for lunch a few days later and ordered the Seafood Tostado ($13.99), which is a heavenly dish for shrimp and lobster lovers. The large crispy tortilla shell was overflowing with jumbo pink shrimp and large chunks of fresh lobster meat. The seafood was sautéed in a scrumptious garlic butter sauce, and served still warm atop a mound of crunchy cool lettuce.

Family, friends, good value

There are also many kid-friendly items on the menu, including burgers, tacos and tamales. The atmosphere is perfect for families and large groups, so it’s not a quiet spot for a romantic meal. But the service on my visits was outstanding, as was the value for the money.

Overall, I have to say my hairdresser was right—this is delicious, freshly prepared, authentic Mexican food served up at a great price.

Founded by Carlos and Marianne Leyva, there are two locations in Paso Robles. The Spring Street restaurant opened in 1990, followed seven years later by the one on Creston Road. They are considered by many to be among Paso’s favorite eateries, and now I know why.

Reach freelance writer Janis Switzer atjanisswitzer@yahoo.com.

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