I'd only been to Carlos & Pepe's once, and I didn't much like it. At the time I was still getting used to the lower-tier food around here, and I've been meaning to try them again. One way that they distinguish themselves is that they're the only Mexican restaurant that isn't open for lunch (other than higher-end Eduardo De San Angel). So getting here is more difficult.
I'd heard that they won't seat "singles" in a booth, but perhaps that's only on crowded weekends. During the week I got a booth. They have a pretty nice bar in here, but I didn't want to eat at the bar or at a high-top.
Carlos and Pepe's Interior
There's sort of an open kitchen; a few of the booths are "inside" and there's another dining room in the back. Decor is typical of the old-time Mexican restaurants in town.
Carlos and Pepes Kitchen
I thought about a beer, but opted for an Iced Tea. Mexican food is more lunch than dinner to me, despite the late hour.
Carlos & Pepe's Iced Tea
The tea came out and I wondered if they still gave chips, but they came out a few minutes later.
Carlos & Pepe's Chips
The chips were crisp and fresh, but the salsa looked like no other I've had before. I couldn't figure out why the color seemed off.
Carlos & Pepe's Salsa
Nevertheless, the salsa wasn't bad, and the chips were good. I hadn't eaten lunch so it was the first food I'd had in awhile. I had more chips than I usually do.
I was going to order the Chile Rellenos (2 peppers with rice and beans) and then I noticed the combos. I decided on a Chile Relleno / Chicken Enchilada combo. You can get the Chile Relleno with cheese, chicken or vegetable filling and you can order if fried or baked. I went with cheese/fried.
They play low, festive music that provides a nice backdrop to dining. The food was plopped in front of me in short order.
Carlos & Pepe's Enchilada / Chile Relleno Combo
They typical Mexican mess, where it looks like they just cover the plate in cheese and put it into a really hot oven.
The chicken in the enchilada didn't have a lot of taste; I considered it straight protein.
Carlos and Pepes Enchilada
The Chile Relleno was good; not overly filled with cheese but I liked it. They de-stemmed it which is a plus.
Carlos and Pepes Chile Relleno
The rice was more like fried rice than Mexican rice. there was a smallish portion of refried beans. I cleaned the place so it wasn't too bad. Nothing great here, but pretty standard fare compared to other places. Service was good; there are plenty of people flying around.
The dish I had was $16 and you get it at most places for $12.95 for lunch, which is why I don't go to Mexican restaurants for dinner. The "Cantina" here has been updated with new TVs so it's an option in the area for watching Sunday or Monday night football and chowing down on nachos or quesadillas. There's nothing crazy good or bad about the place; it's the only real Mexican restaurant on this side of town.
Carlos and Pepe's has been around for years; back when there were few choices in the area. Times change, and Carlos and Pepe's just doesn't measure up.
There's a large bar with plenty of TVs that you can see from anywhere in the bar area. There's also a dining room in the back with wooden booths, but most people are in the 'Cantina'. There's soft mexican music playing and I'd have to say that the bar is attractive. The servers, unfortunately, lack personality. There's just something unfriendly about the place, as if you're bothering them when you ask for something.
As for the food, my recommendation is to stick to the drinks. They probably have the worst salsa I've ever been served. Its watery and lacks any flavor. It just seems like its weeks old. The chips; straight from a bag. The black bean soup is completely pureed and has rice in it. Enchiladas are passable, but they are a sloppy mess with a big puddle of refried beans and rice. Tomatoes and onions on the side look old. Everything here lacks any sense of freshness.
In conclusion, its a not too bad bar where you might stop for a Dos Equis before going to eat somewhere else.