Paloma Blanca

By Ron Bechtol

It must be the margaritas. Three of the city’s most appealing outdoor settings — La Fonda on Main, La Hacienda de los Barrios and Paloma Blanca — happen to be attached to Mexican restaurants serving the popular libation. If you factor in not one but two fountains, the edge might just go to the Alamo Heights hangout, especially as Paloma Blanca has gone to lengths to assure local loyalty by naming two cocktails after the ‘hood: the ’09 and the Heights.

If you want our advice, go for either of these over any of the more modest margs using sweet ‘n sour. The Platino Skinny Margarita eschewing Cointreau and/or Grand Marnier in favor of agave syrup also works. But even the house margarita (on the rocks, please) is more than tolerable in the setting framed by mature palms and cooled with hard-working fans. Only the occasional angry bird intrudes.

We tend to be less influenced by environment when it comes to food. A recent order of al pastor quesadillas flaunted good tortillas and beautifully melted queso, but the pork pastor itself, though it did boast of cubed pineapple, seemed stewy rather than rotisserie-cooked. Enchiladas San Miguel, plump with guajillo-sauced mushrooms and topped with queso blanco, remain a vegetarian favorite, however. (PB also offers paleo and gluten-free menus.) And though we rarely order it, the chile relleno de vegetales, stuffed with zucchini, corn, poblano and queso Monterrey, often at least beckons as an alternative to the standard model.

Which we also ordered recently. Yes, the coating could be called spongy, but it was appealingly light and grease-free. And the ground beef filling with potato that has been the focus of previous sniping seems to have come into its own: It was beautifully cooked, artfully seasoned and more than stood up to the polite salsa española that capped the creation. Accompanying borracho beans were also cooked to just the right point and discreetly flavored with bacon, but they responded well to a jolt of the toasty salsa that had accompanied fresh chips.

There is no talking about Paloma Blanca without mentioning the tres leches cake. Though it was made famous by others, the pastel as produced here is a classic — especially in the original, vanilla version. Go slow on the margaritas if you must, but reward yourself with a slice at meal’s end.

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