Palacios Mexican Restaurant511 Main Street
It All Started On the Veranda of the Luther Hotel
How about the Chili Relleno?- Frozen Margaritas! We should have a vegetarian something. - Frozen Margaritas!- Perhaps the vegetarian Quesadilla de Queso?- Frozen Margaritas!- Look at that Queso Flameado de Chorizo! – Frozen Margaritas! – Stuffed Shrimp wrapped with bacon. Frozen Margaritas! – Quail with Chipotle sauce, now that sounds unusual! – Frozen Margaritas! And so it went for nearly an hour.
When I ended my restaurant review, with Chef Ken Foster of the Rockport-Fulton H.S. Culinary Class for the May issue of Texas NOW, I hinted to Publisher Tom Meinhausen that another gig like that would be welcome. Little did I realize how soon he would take the hint!
My husband Rolf, Tom, his wife, Marie, and I, were ensconced in bright white, very comfortable, rocking chairs on the magnificent veranda of the historic Luther Hotel in Palacios, with a panoramic view of Tres Palacios Bay. We were checking out the menu for a restaurant review of the local Palacios Mexican Restaurant. Joining us for a time was Luther Hotel owner, Jack Findley, who would be the fifth sampler by proxy: we would bring back the courses to him since he needed to remain at the hotel to welcome guests for the weekend.
We were trying to come up with a representative sampling from the many diverse dishes we already knew from experience were offered at this downtown location. We hoped to provide our readers with a cross-section of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts to illustrate the range of the reasonably priced menu. The choices were tempting, (and that was only looking at the menu!).
Finally, we made our way two blocks from the Luther Hotel and entered PMR, as it is called locally.
We received a very warm welcome from owner Daniel Molina, who led us through the dining room, with its wonderful south-of-the-border atmosphere, and introduced us to Chef Julio, busy at work in the gleaming kitchen. As we were seated in a private dining room, we said: “Let the feast begin… and oh yes, don’t forget the Frozen Margaritas!”
We progressed through an array of aromas, flavors, spices and impressions. And what was crystal clear from the outset was this: the menu and atmosphere are the focal point of every customer’s visit and the quality of the food stems from the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
First came the wafer thin tortilla chips with two salsas: one red, tomato based, and one green, tomatillo and avocado based. Simply first class, fine and fresh!
“Everything is made fresh daily. The tortillas are made twice a day”: once in the morning for lunch, once in the afternoon for dinner. The salsas, too, are fresh. We use fresh tomatillo tomatoes (only exception: canned, peeled tomatoes for the red sauce), cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapeno. All other dishes also are made on site and fresh daily.” Daniel Molina
Then, two appetizers followed. The vegetarian Quesadilla de Queso – grilled tortillas with bell peppers, white onions, mushrooms, two kinds of cheeses and topped with lettuce and tomato was beautifully presented and melted in your mouth. The Queso Flameado de Chorizo came in a deep dish with Mexican sausage, white onions and bell peppers. Marie said, “I could have this alone as an entrée. It’s delicious.” Excellent, we all thought. Then the second thought… we’d better slow down. There was more to come!
After that, for the next hour or more (time also slowed down), dish after sizzling, delicious dish appeared like magic from Chef Julio’s kitchen on the arm of our waiter, Raoul. There was the Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp. The amazing beef-stuffed Chili Relleno wrapped in an omelet. Chicken Enchiladas with a sour cream casing. Quail with chipotle and caramelized onions. (This we found difficult to eat due to the generous serving of sauce. We would recommend having the sauce on the side next time. The onions were outstanding.) Oh my word so many delicious, beautifully presented dishes. The sides of rice, fresh guacamole and refried beans were just as elegantly appealing.
Fortunately, as we looked at the array of samplings around us, we remembered our fifth Sampler, Jack Findley! Oh, yes, we are putting aside some for him as well! (But alas, not the frozen margaritas, which were refreshingly tart and tangy, served in frosted mugs.)
We each had our favorites. The Queso Flameado de Chorizo won Marie and me over. The Chili Relleno in an omelet wonTom over, and the Chicken Enchiladas with sour cream casing, Rolf. Yet each dish had something to savor.
Our Just Desserts
Slowing down to a roar, we were presented with four desserts: caramel flan (custard) in perfectly formed individual servings; a hollow tortilla dome with a cheese sauce – unusual and tasty; lightly sugared sopapillas with honey that were the most delicate that any of us had ever had; and, what really served as the groups favorite, the “Tres Leches (three milks) Cake”. With three layers, the bottom was iced milk, then light white cake and then icing … unusual, lovely, and as we attempted to capture its essence, we hit upon “tinglingly delightful”.
My Father’s Dream
The most moving part of our visit was a talk with owner Daniel Molina. As dishes were being cleared, we asked him to tell us about the restaurant. “It is my father’s dream,” he said.
His father and mother moved from Mexico to Houston to open a restaurant – his father’s life-long dream. Bringing their six children with them, they did spark that dream; but when his father became ill in 1980, they had to return to Mexico.
Mr. Molina Sr.’s dream did not die, however. He sold property his property and gave the proceeds to Daniel to “carry on the dream” and help his siblings. This he did. He opened the first Palacios Mexican Restaurant in Palacios in 1984. Then, he helped his brothers open others, all named Palacios Mexican Restaurant “to recognize what the City of Palacios has done for us.” Eventually there were four PMR restaurants.
City’s Favorite Spot
Palacios Mexican Restaurant has a charmingly warm decor. Decorated in vibrant shades of orange and red, with an ochre flagstone floor and colorful paintings and art work depicting Mexican sites and scenes, it immediately embraces you. Add to that the smiles and warm welcome of Mr. Molina and his staff, and you just settle in “as family”, waiting for the savory dishes to appear.
The local Rotary Club and Lion’s Club leave their signs and accoutrements there because they meet monthly at PMR. It clearly is a community gathering place.
For myself, I consider PMR one of the grandest celebrations of Mexican food.
So Rolf, Tom, Marie, and I, and Jack Findley, too – urge you to make the drive to Palacios. Have lunch at the PMR, or better yet, a dinner there and an overnight stay at the marvelous Luther Hotel!
Tell them “Texas NOW” sent you. And don’t forget the Frozen Margaritas!
Salud A Todos
(Cheers to Everyone)
My father-in-law, who spent much time in Denmark, often spoke of their custom to “urge” one to sample something more, to stay longer or to linger. They would do it several times. If you stayed, then “the urging” was successful. If you did not, it was not. The point was, “the urging” definitely had to be given more than once. Consider this footnote as just that, another urging to visit this fine, family-oriented establishment. Who knows, we may see you there!Story by Penny Hong
Photography by Tom Meinhausen