Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pancho Villa – Matawan, NJ

peanutpimpmama

In all my years of living in this town, our Main street has seen countless restaurants come and go. With sky high rent prices and old and clearly unknowledgeable landlords with high expectations for “suitable” rent rates have made it very difficult for businesses to thrive. Time and time again we see a new business open and customers barely have the time to figure out what they’re all about. Then poof* They’re gone.

After a local bar crawl last January my boyfriend and I ended up at Maloney’s for a last round. Suddenly we were chatted up by Dan the owner of Pancho Villa, a Mexican restaurant and true gem located right on Main Street in Matawan, NJ. He was a very entertaining character and he deserved all of the Coronas that came his way that night. After a long evening of brews and laughs, Dan invited us over to his establishment for an after-hours preview of what his restaurant has to offer.  We were taken aback by his indecorous hospitality and how tasty our unexpected late night munchies were. Dan even made sure we got home “safely” by driving us home in his white pickup truck. As we walked out that night, we knew a proper return was in order. Dan, we thank you!

So, Who is Pancho Villa?  Where did Dan get this name from?

          

José Doroteo Arango Arámbula (famous bandit and politician) born June 5th 1878 and died in July of 1923 was nicknamed “Pancho Villa”. He was one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals as well as Governor of Chihuahua whose memory is honored by Mexicans far and wide. He performed as a “Robin Hood of Mexico” by seizing hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers whilst robbing and commanding trains and printing false money to support his cause. He spent his life robbing from the rich and giving to the poor and was assassinated in 1923 in Parral.

What Makes Pancho Villa (The Restaurant) so special?

The Experience: As soon as you enter this establishment you realize this place may be tiny, but it has a lot of heart! You are immediately greeted with warm Mexican hospitality and a dish of the most amazing nachos. Fear not vegetarians, they are not topped with meat! These freshly cut and deep fried tortilla chips are adorned with a black bean sauce and just the right amount of cotija cheese. I could seriously make a meal out of these alone, but then I would be missing out on all the other fabulous treats this restaurant has to offer.

After looking at the menu for a bit and working out that they are minus a liquor license, it can be a bit dissapointing and often a turn-off for some. However, Dan does not mind if you B.Y.O.B.! After all, what is a good Mexican meal without some nice tequila to pair it off? No worries about corking fees, as the only payment you may have to make while bringing your own bottle is a friendly shot with the owner and some delightful conversation. Dan is full of that…

  

We happened to have a bottle of Don Julio laying around. (Remnants of my NY mini bar that once was) So, we brought that in forgetting that we did not have all the other ingredients necessary for a “proper” margarita. We got a little creative and raided Dan’s refrigerator for the next best thing. We found out he has a whole assortment of Mexican brand beverages imported for your enjoyment. (PPM Tip): For a makeshift margarita try the Jarritos Lime drink with a splash of Jarritos Pineapple and a shot of tequila.

Once you get all settled in with your bevs, if you’re anything like me you need some guacamole with your complimentary nachos, and some salsa (because you’re saucy like that). If things get really crazy, you may even need some more nachos. Once again you’ve come to the right place with hands-down the best guacamole in Matawan (next to my own). These nachos and guacamole have it all. The guac has just enough salt and the citrus is present and balanced by the cilantro tomato and onion. BAM! A fiesta in your mouth.

After taking a good long look at the menu we decided to start off with one of Dan’s featured “hot appetizers” of the day which are conveniently listed on the dining room whiteboard. One can get a bit overwhelmed with their menu featuring a very busy collage of images and Spanish names (we Anglophones have a limited clue about).

Pictured Here: Spicy Prawn Soup  Pictured Here: One Large Camarone  Pictured Here: Camarones Aftermath

The Caldo de Camarones was presented in a very generous bowl with lime wedges. We were instructed to squeeze these into our piping hot and spicy soup. Dan noted: “This is perfect for you if you have a cold.” Now I’m not certain that Dan knew we were going to be sharing it or not, but he made sure it was filled with numerous large prawns. Stinginess is not allowed at Pancho Villa! The broth was an amazing concoction of spicy chili and tomato with a hint of coconut milk. The lime was a magical touch!

                    

While I tried my hardest to dissect the menu for something I was in the mood for, I asked our pal Dan if he had any fish tacos. He told me he ran out, but that he had a beautiful fish in the kitchen “just for me”. Next thing I knew this pretty little basket of freshly made tortilla appeared clothed in a floral embroidered napkin. Minutes later my Sea Bass arrived with rice and beans (of course) and salad. Now normally I’m a bit apprehensive when I order a fish that has been de-boned on the spot. Lets face the fact that when you have given up meat for nearly half your life, and fish has only been re-introduced to your diet in the past few years, there’s nothing worse than swallowing a bone, especially a small chewy one that scratches your esophagus the whole way down. Sorry, no one likes that. Dan succeeded once again! Not one bony incident and PPM was pleased with our $36.00(inc. tip) purchase. Where else in Matawan can you be fed like this for under $40.00?

Pancho Villa is a very casual restaurant without one pretentious bone in its body. It is perfect for (most) occasions, and complete with plenty of kitsch artwork to admire. I couldn’t help but notice his random appreciation for Chinese good fortune lions, and was relieved to find out they were a souvenir from Dan’s son that happens to be serving in the US military. He was stationed in Asia and brought them back as a souvenir for his new business. There was always the possibility they were re-gifted from the last (Asian-Fusion) restaurant that previously occupied the space. Not sure what the feng-shui rules are for recycling these little feline figurines, but we sure hope they bring Dan way more good fortune than the previous tenants…

A Peak Inside:

              Pictured Here: The Dining Room  

That’s right Aby’s, move over…The REAL Mexican Restaurant is finally here! Even YELP gave them 4.5 out of 5 stars. For those in and around Matawan, please stop by and show your support. You won’t be sorry. Don’t have time? Pancho Villa handles take-out orders as well.

129 Main Street Matawan, NJ 07747   (732) 970-5931

 Dan Dan he’s our man!  If he can’t do it, no one can! (He’s very camera shy!)

 

The “Punkin” Cuppie~ Available for Orders (inquire within)

    

Introducing: The Punkin Cuppie!

Punkin Cuppie Batter

It was late October, and we were up state in Rhinebeck, NY on our yearly family vacation. My boyfriend and I had stayed a day later than my parents, and they messaged for us to come home ASAP due to a possible state of emergency. Sandy was tearing up the coastline of my beloved state within 24 hours. We lost electricity within one hour after it all began and by the second day we had to resort to our brand new generator especially purchased for this disastrous event. That broke down on day three, and with no electricity for two weeks it was safe to say we were pretty put out. The NJtransit Coastline was heavily obstructed by the devastation making it impossible to get to work for commuters. However we had to count ourselves lucky after hurricane Irene flooded our house with two feet of water the previous year. While Sandy did her damage we were left to sit tight.

Pictured Here: Punkin Cuppies- Fresh out  the oven'PeanutPimpMama did what she does best. Inspired by Dad’s recent trip to the grocery store for Thanksgiving inspired comfort-dinner ingredients, I baked pumpkin flavored cuppies to stick with the theme. What is a Thanksgiving inspired meal without something pumpkin flavored to end it? Truth is I had wanted to make pumpkin flavored cupcakes for ages, but I was short an oven since our big move out of NYC last July. Not having an oven tends to get in the way of baking.

We hit the grocery store like a SWAT team that day in search of our foodies with our generator running in shifts. We had to beat the clock in order to save fuel with the rationing going on. As I was on my way out of the local Matawan Stop N’ Shop on Rte. 34, I found pumpkin candied almonds which made for a perfect cupcake garnish! I figured cheating is allowed during hurricanes… Right?

Pictured Here: Punkin Cuppies (Iced)With limited outlets to work with, the batter was completely blended by hand (old-school style) with a wooden spoon. What do you know, but as soon as I had all of the batter spooned into the papers our oven would not turn on. It was a mystery since all of the rest of the electrical appliances seemed to be running off the generator just fine!

Rest assured Mom saved the day (and the cuppies) with the genius idea to head over to the neighbor’s house we sit for. It just so happens that they fly south to FL for the winter and the coast was clear. We snuck in, preheated and hung out for 30 minutes to make sure the cupcakes were actually cooked and that there was no trace of the oven borrowing incident. SShhh*

Pictured Here: Punkin Crash Test Cuppie

I was told the cake part was one of my best ever sans electric hand mixer. When the cupcakes cooled I spooned two large dollops of cream cheese icing on top, and finished off with a candied almond et enfin, a light shimmy of cinnamon dust. Voila! Sandy may have been detrimental to my state, but it gave our family some much needed quality time and an opportunity for an early Thanksgiving since we ended up missing “The Real Deal” while in London. Shame, we really had a lot to give thanks for this year.

If you are interested in having your very own batch of PeanutPimpMama’s Punkin Cuppies, please email your requests to: peanutpimpmama@aol.com.

 

 

 

 Dad’s Home Cooked Meal:

 Pictured Here: Hors d'oeuvres, Triscuit base alternated with habanero cheddar from Rhinebeck, NY, spicy olives and hoummous       

~ PeanutPimpMama