Nearly 10 years ago JLee and I would make a special trip in to Berkeley and visit Pepito’s Deli. All we wanted was a pint of their Chile Verde, a load of warm tortillas and some cheese to grate. We’d fly back to work and just stand there loading up our tortillas and slurping away. The elixir of the gods. It was always the finest we could find, wasn’t cheap though. This pint of goodness was 16 bux, worth every penny too.
Seasons passed and one day we pulled up to find it had closed. We weren’t close enough to the staff or owners to know why, but it was gone. Gone until today that is!
First off I want to thank RW for sleuthing out this Pepito’s Deli. While it isn’t the same exact one, it’s been here in Richmond since 1976 and run by the children of the Berkeley location that closed oh so many years ago. So, that explains that.
I needed to know, had to know. I must find out if this chile verde still existed. I didn’t care about anything else, nada. I wanted to find my long lost succulent green siren of Mexicanny love.
JLee and I arrived around 10:30 in the morning. A little too early for lunch, but we were both way too hungry to last another second. The exterior didn’t quite catch my eye as I rolled down 23rd. I had to hang a U-turn, parked right out front. JLee was already there, we walked in to a little grocery store. It was clean with some essentials on the shelves. A little cooler held some limes, tomatillas and a few other goodies. But we weren’t there for that, in the back of the building you could see quite a large plaza area with tables and a kitchen with a long counter. While they did have a good selection, it wasn’t overwhelming (this is a good thing) and I promptly ordered the Chile Verde Dinner Plate. Jan opted for cheese enchiladas with chile verde dredged over the top. It didn’t translate, so she didn’t end up with exactly that.
RW mentioned the chips being cooked in lard and wonderful. For me getting the chips is the litmus test of how good the meal will be. If they come out of a bag? I’m suspicious. If they’re like this? I’m pretty darned sure it’s going to be a fine meal. Gee, I wonder how well this meal will go?
Correct as always (for both RW and myself). These weren’t your typical home deep fried corn chips. They were kinda puffy, in a good way. They had a lot of texture all the way through the chip, some crunchy and some not as crunchy. Nicely done! Since the place was pretty vacant at this time of day, we’d only had about 8 chips when our meal was delivered to our table, outside. That’s right, see that garden picture up there? Yup, they have a garden with tables, chairs & umbrellas. Enough mature plants, vines and palms to stagger my little city riddled mind. The entire side of the building is covered in a bright bougainvilleas and other vines, almost felt like reading a book. In the center you’ll find that fancy tall fountain with the sound of burblin’ water all about. Hard to believe right over there is 23rd Avenue.
Sorry about the non-fancy shot here. We were so hungry I didn’t have time to play with our food.
Here’s JLee’s cheese enchiladas, rice & beans. While she did get the green sauce, the chile verde didn’t make it on. No biggie, I got enough to share, eh. She dug in to the rice and remarked, “Goll, I really like the rice. This is good enough just to have the rice & beans alone.” How often do you hear that? Rarely, this I know.
I didn’t even have to take a bite. I could see the Verde was as I remembered it. I remember seeing the little dark bits with other little things going on. The rice also had little schpreckles of flavor hiding in there. Let’s take a bite.
Oh man, the pork comes right apart with the back of the plastic fork. The richness of the sauce is enveloping. The brightness the tomatillas lend plays around with the chile flavors and then back to the stewy porkness. The rice was rich and had been pan fried a little bit. The beans were refried with the same rich love that everything else had, probably lard. You can’t make friends with canola. Even the corn tortillas wrapped in foil had seen the griddle. This lends another layer of flavor rather than just heating and using steam. Steam? Blech.
Needless to say the meal disapeared and the day so sunny in a garden so bright, we rested. Leaning back and listening to the fountain is pretty much like morphine as far as I’m concerned. The only track marks I could find was a full belly. No harm there, no sir.
For about 17 bux we got all that food including 2 good sized beverages. I’ll try something else next time for sure. How far would I travel for this food and surroundings? A lot. And that’s saying something. Maybe next time I’ll walk across the street and check out the Mexican Western Wear store.
Don’t pass this one up, just don’t.
1087 23rd Street
Richmond, CA 94804