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Amelia Islander

Pepper's Cocina Mexicana and Tequila Bar

By Michael Gass • Photo by William Raser

Last Friday night I was happy to get out of the house and meet some friends for dinner and drinks at Pepper’s. Pepper’s has long been a go-to spot to satisfy my family or a large group, but tonight I was meeting friend and fellow teacher Laura Porter and her husband, Josh, to celebrate our first week of school and enjoy some “grown-up time” together.

When we arrived, the place was hopping, with the bar full and folks waiting to be seated. We had hoped to sit on the comfortable patio, but as a group left the bar, we decided to slide in behind them. We were greeted warmly by Brett, our host and bartender for the evening.

Brett casually worked up and down the bar, talking and laughing with guests while pouring drinks and placing orders. A basket of warm tortilla chips and fresh salsa arrived, and we added some warm, creamy queso and cool guacamole. Since we were feeling celebratory, Brett lined up a round of Maestro Diamante tequila shots. The bar at Pepper’s is stocked with dozens of fine tequilas. The Dobel Diamante is crystal-clear and smooth as silk, with notes of citrus; aged in oak and double filtered, it’s to be savored rather than chased with a lime.

As we got comfortable, Josh and I ordered beers and Laura a Jalapeno Margarita. The margarita was cool and delicious, with a little kick from their homemade jalapeno-infused tequila. Laura is braver than I, tougher too; I like my margaritas frozen with fruit in them. Who doesn’t love a slushy?

We talked our way through two baskets of chips without even looking at the menu, then placed our orders while we swapped stories and caught up on the summer’s activities. I ordered the Ceviche Mixto, a delicious combination of lime-cured grouper and shrimp with fresh peppers, onions, and tomatoes. I love a dish like this on a hot night, it’s the perfect bar bite: delicious and complementary to the drinks. Josh went with a Chicken Burrito and Laura the Steak Fajita Nachos. Both looked delicious. Josh was keen to share, but Laura threatened violence if her plate was touched. In the end, Laura capitulated and I did get to try a piece of the steak and a couple nachos.

As we enjoyed our entrees, we tried the Jose Quervo Reserva de Familia. Aged in oak for an amber color and smoky flavor, this Añejo tequila is aged for three years. Brett tells me that this is a perfect drink for someone who traditionally prefers a brandy or bourbon. The Reserva is 100 percent agave, but shares the warm character so familiar to whisky enthusiasts.

For dessert, we had a trio of fruit-flavored margaritas and a plate of Churros with Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is a caramel made from slow-cooked sweetened milk, and it was sinfully delicious with the warm crunchy churros covered in cinnamon and sugar. We devoured the tasty treats, but lingered over the margaritas.

Peppers Cocina Mexicana and Tequila Bar is a lively place to hang out with cool drinks and hot eats. Located at Centre and 6th Streets, Pepper’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.