Sometimes, the best way to get something done the way you want is to do it yourself. And no one has embodied that lifestyle better than Juan Gonzalez. As head chef and co-owner at El Pazcifico Mexican Grill & Cantina, in just over a year Juan has established a beloved restaurant with a vast menu that is rich in flavor, quality, and creativity.
Anyone who has tried one of the incredible dishes at El Pazcifico would likely be surprised to learn that this is Juan’s first experience as a cook. However, he’s no stranger to the restaurant business – he worked as a server in various restaurants for over 20 years. Engaging with customers in the dining room appealed to him, so when Juan and his wife Isabel decided to open their own restaurant, he didn’t actually intend to work in the kitchen. But within four months of their January 2018 opening, that’s where he found himself, bringing his carefully cultivated recipes from conception to the tables of their satisfied customers.
“I make everything,” says Juan. “Everything here is my recipe, everything is made from scratch.” That attention to detail, which includes roasting his own tomatillos for sauces and tinkering with traditional recipes to make them healthier, shines through with every bite.
Among the most popular dishes at El Pazcifico are the enchiladas, and there’s a different enchilada plate for every taste. Starting with the Enchiladas Al Comal, pick your choice of grilled chicken or grilled steak, mixed with poblano peppers and onions. Together they’re wrapped up in soft corn tortillas and topped with house made chipotle sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese, and of course served with steaming heaps of rice and refried beans. Or try another crowd pleaser, the Enchiladas El Pazcifico, which are stuffed with shrimp, imitation crab meat, and jack cheese, and covered with pico de gallo, avocado, and their white Pazcifico sauce.
If you’re craving a good fish entrée, take a look at their sea bass filet section of the menu. There are several options, but go for the Almendrado, which features grilled sea bass served with jalapeño butter sauce and sprinkled with parsley and sliced almonds.
Of course, like most Mexican restaurants, El Pazcifico serves all its customers chips and salsa while they await their meals. Chances are that you love a side of guacamole with your chips, and if so, you’re in luck – El Pazcifico prides itself on its fresh guacamole. How fresh, you ask? It’s made tableside, by your server. “It can’t get any fresher,” quips Juan. “And I think people love that.” And it’s true that one of the reasons customers become regulars at El Pazcifico is because of that level of quality, which includes the healthier options that Juan has added to the menu. Vegetarians, take note: there are veggie burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas, and there’s no lard in the beans. Other healthy updates he hopes to make is to remove chicken stock from the rice recipe to make it vegetarian and one day soon Juan hopes to have homemade tortillas added to the menu.
“I never expected to cook,” admits Juan. “But I enjoy it. Every single thing that I cook, it’s like if I was making it for me.”
When you stop by, make sure to say hello to Juan and Isabel. They’re typically in the restaurant seven days a week, all day, and their youngest children have loved getting involved on the weekends, too.
“We want to personally thank every customer that comes here,” say Juan and Isabel. “We truly with all our heart thank everybody. Without them we couldn’t make it.”
For an Unforgettable Feast:
El Pazcifico Mexican Grill & Cantina
114 W. Pine St., Lodi