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Amelia Islander

Pepper's Mexican Grill & Cantina

Jan 15, 2014 09:47AM
The Garcia family has been serving up real Mexican food for many years. Hailing from Degollado, a small city in the eastern highlands of the Mexican state of Jalisco, the Garcias pride themselves on fresh ingredients and attention to detail in their busy restaurant, Peppers Mexican Grill & Cantina.

Degollado is known for its tequila, and manager Vanessa Garcia introduced me to two specialty tequila cocktails when I came in for dinner with my friend, Sherry. “You must try La Paloma,” said Vanessa. “It is made with tequila. It is what the Mexicans drink, the most popular in all of Mexico.” La Paloma is made with tequila, grapefruit soda, lime, and orange. The rim of the glass is coated in a spicy chili powder. Sherry and I sampled this beverage, along with another tequila drink called Dynamite Margarita, an enormous cocktail made with 1800 coconut tequila, Midori, pineapple juice, sour mix, and coconut Malibu. Both drinks were wonderful, but La Paloma was our favorite. It is light and refreshing, and we could see why it was so popular.

While we sipped our drinks, we enjoyed Peppers wonderful appetizers—Tortilla Chips with Salsa, Chorizo con Queso, and their homemade Guacamole. Peppers makes all their dishes from scratch every day—the salsa is fresh and lively, bursting with cilantro, and their queso cheese and avocado dips are perfectly seasoned and delightful. I could live on Peppers’ dips!

For dinner, our server Jeff brought us two of Peppers’ most popular dishes – Mariachi, and Fajita Mexico. Mariachi features fresh grouper grilled and topped with juicy shrimp, sautéed onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and spicy jalapenos. Fajita Mexico is a sizzling fajita dish with grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, sautéed onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes, served with pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, flour tortillas, rice, and black beans. Here’s where Peppers is the shining star of Mexican restaurants: the ingredients are fresh, and each dish is freshly made when you place your order. The grouper was perfectly cooked, spicy and wonderful, the fajita tender and savory. Peppers gives their diners a lot of food, and I always have plenty to take home for dinner the next day.

For dessert, Vanessa suggested we try their Tres Leches Cake, and also Chocoflan, a new addition to their menu. Tres Leches cake is a vanilla cake infused with three varieties of milk, and topped with a secret white frosting. It is moist and sweet, and served with a trio of syrup drizzles—chocolate, strawberry, and lime. It is one of my favorite Mexican desserts! The Chocolflan is unique and also delicious, a chocolate cake topped with flan and baked in the oven, then served with whipped cream. A perfect ending to our fine meal.

Peppers is now offering a special Tequila Tasting Experience, a great way to get to know this complex spirit, distilled from the fermented juice of the Agave plant. For one price, your bartender will provide a tequila sampler, and explain the differences in the varieties, their tastes, and textures. Much like wine, tequila is a multifaceted and fascinating potion. This would be a great way to celebrate an evening with friends at Peppers—a tequila tasting, followed by a fine Mexican dinner. Peppers is located on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach, and open seven days a week. You can visit them at www.peppersmexican.com.