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Thursday, November 5, 2009 found me cruising south on California State Route 99, on the way to my day's destination of Mojave, and ultimately to Bakersfield, for a much-needed visit with my son Matthew.  It was nearly 11:00 in the morning, and I'd been up since 0530 and only had toast and coffee for breakfast, and I was rapidly developing an appetite for Mexican Food!  If you know me, you'd probably say, what else?  Like my stomach, my gas tank was crying out for a re-fill, so Tulare seemed like a good place to stop for fuel and food.

Photo:  Don Pancho Villa Tacos is located in Heritage Place shopping center, in Tulare, California.

I've been through Tulare many times, and have stopped for gas in the town before, but I'd never eaten there before. There are many restaurants near the highway, but they're mostly chain restaurants, or diners that specialize in good ol' American comfort food, and I was in the mood for Mexican food, which is probably my favorite genre of food. Since I wasn't familiar with the town, I simply turned to my most faithful traveling companion, my Garmin Nuvi 755T GPS, went down to the "food' menu, dialed in "Mexican" and was rewarded with a seemingly endless choices of Mexican restaurants.  Don Pancho Villa Tacos was first on the list, so I followed the visual and spoken directions on my GPS, and in only a couple of minutes, I was parked in front of Don Pancho Villa Tacos.

Photo:  When I walked into Don Pancho, Rafael, the owner, gave me a friendly greeting.  Later, he circulated among the diners, chatting and making sure everything was allright.

Don Pancho Villa Tacos is located at the east end of Heritage Place shopping center, which is a medium-sized shopping center in the middle of town.  It's a small mom and pop, family-owned and operated business staffed by only two people:  Rafael, the owner, and his sister-in-law Rosario.  After introducing myself, telling Rafael what I do, and placing my order of two tacos de lengua, Rafael was happy to chit-chat with me, while Rosario prepared my order.  Rafael is a very friendly guy, and was very pleased when I told him that I was a free lance writer, a "foodie," and a lover of Mexican food.  He was especially pleased when I switched to Spanish, so the remainder of our conversation utilized both languages.  

Like the majority of small restaurants, Rafael and Rosario arrive long before the business opens, to get things going.  Although the restaurant doesn't open until 10;00, Rafael told me that he normally arrives no later than seven, to receive meat and produce deliveries, and to start making salsa.  Rosario arrives a bit later, and her first task to make corn tortillas.  Rafael was very proud to point out that everything is fresh, and made in-house, and he seemed especially proud of the corn tortillas.  After all, I don't think there is anything that tastes better than a freshly made corn tortilla.

Photo:  A look inside the spotless kitchen finds Rosario hard at work making salsa.

Photo:  My two delicious tacos de lengua, garnished with red salsa.  I haven't squeezed the lime juice on my tacos... yet.

When my order of tacos de lengua (tongue tacos) arrived, they were a little bare, as they were garnished with only diced white onions and cilantro.  But not to worry, as Don Pancho has a full condiment and salsa bar, loaded with fresh choices.  I decided to garnish my taco with red salsa, with a squeeze of lime juice, as lengua is quite mild, and I didn't want to overpower the delicate flavor with too many condiments.  As I took my first bite, I knew that I'd arrived at "taco nirvana," as the meat was moist, chewy, and cooked perfectly, the salsa and condiments were fresh and delicious, and the fresh, in-house made corn tortillas were simply a slice of heaven.  At the skimpy price of only $1.25 each, Don Pancho's tacos are a real bargain.

Photo:  I asked Rafael to pose in front of the order counter, and he cheerfully agreed.  Rafael is a hard working guy, and a truly nice person.

Don Pancho Villa Tacos is a bargain restaurant, which serves delicious, authentic Mexican cuisine, favored by Tulare locals, and staffed by gracious and friendly people.  I highly recommend dialing in Don Pancho in your GPS, pulling off the highway, and enjoying fresh and delicious Mexican food.

Don Pancho Villa Tacos
250 E. Cross Ave.
Tulare, CA 93274
559 688-8164

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