Located on the traffic circle where drivers once hesitated to yield for fear of a certain restaurant running out of its famous puffy tortilla chips, Pegaso Mexican Diner has big zapatos to fill.
Old-school Caro’s was known for its fondness for fresh fare, sans “steam table, microwave or can-opener,” or so lore goes. Pegaso, which is a block over on Bluebonnet Circle, has the same desire, and also bears a distinguished pedigree: Beloved Dallas restaurateur Monica Greene (Monica’s Aca y Alla, BEE: Best Enchiladas Ever) is part owner, along with business partner Jay Coates.
The duo’s dedication to a trans-fat-free menu means much of the food is prepared before your eyes. It’s order-at-the-counter (to the surprise of many Greene followers, says Coates), which works well at places with a limited menu, but after two visits to Pegaso, the routine doesn’t feel thought out, so much as awkward and ill-conceived.
Tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, salads and sides such as elote and queso blanco are on offer, so when one employee is making your food (and not necessarily passing it along to the next employee), the wait can be lengthy.
For instance, our brisket quesadilla ($7.99) disappeared from view for a while as it was cooking, much to the annoyance of folks behind us in line. Also, a good portion of the menu is dedicated to enchiladas, which can be made “your way,” with patrons picking a choice of tortilla, filling and sauce. This, too, can add to the delay.
The two-enchilada plate ($6.50-$6.99) features corn, blue corn or a cabbage leaf for the tortilla part; five filling options; seven sauce choices; and a choice of two of the five sides. It’s been a long time since I took math and learned about permutations, but all I know is that adds up to a crazy number of possible combinations. Three different enchilada platters narrow down the decision-making, and the Sundance ($5.99) with one cheese enchilada, one pork carnitas enchilada and vegetarian ranchera sauce, rice and refried beans hit the spot. The dish was topped with queso fresco and had an unfussy appeal.
The ground beef-with-potatoes salad bowl sounded intriguing ($7.25). The potatoes, however, were undetectable and the hot mixture overpowered usually-hearty romaine. Props to the shredded zucchini and carrots, which offered a little texture, but I didn’t care for the pungent cilantro lime vinaigrette that had too much seasoning.
Which wasn’t par for the course, considering that many of the items we tried were desperate for the salt-and-pepper shakers. The Pegaso enchilada ($9.99) was well-adorned and very attractive, with shredded lettuce, queso fresco and red onion, but the chicken tinga inside wasn’t flavorful and, inexplicably, I’m not even sure if I tasted the spicy pickled habanero salsa Azteca that is advertised as the garnish.
Side dishes, too, stumbled. We mistakenly ordered the American-style elote ($2.95) instead of the spicy Mexican, and it needed more chipotle crema and mayonnaise.
Two flavorful items of note, though: The brisket in the quesadilla was barbecue-restaurant-ready, tender and smoky, and the skinny premium margarita on the rocks ($8.50), no doubt a nod to the collegiate calorie-counters in the area and made with agave tequila, was knock-your-socks-off strong.
To further emphasize the restaurant’s fast-casual infatuation, items are served on recycled paper plates and there are plastic utensils, which can get a little dicey when tackling the beefier items.
Coates says breakfast may be on the horizon. And, come cooler temperatures, the cute wooden deck off the side of the dining room certainly looks tempting. Pegaso is looking to the future, but for now, it needs to do a little homework.
PEGASO MEXICAN DINER
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.