Cinco de my oh my!

Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant sizzles

By Paula Johnson

Probably the worst day of the year to decide on the spur of the moment to eat at a Mexican restaurant would be Cinco De Mayo. It’s a celebration the entire nation of Mexico pretty much ignores but north of the border we all go loco for. Fortunately for PIP (Palate In Progress) and I, we were on the early side of what promised to be a raucous good time when we arrived at Pepitos in Kettering.

Our first clue that the party was on came when we discovered the parking lot filled to capacity. “That’s odd. It’s early on a Tuesday,” PIP mused. “Yes it’s Tuesday—MAY 5TH!” I exclaimed as we looked at each other, the implications of that date becoming clear to us. Our plans for a sedate weeknight supper seemed in certain jeopardy, but we were both jonesing for Mexican and I could see no reason not to embrace the festivities with a margarita or two. Pepitos is famous for something called a Flu Shot, a sort of margarita on steroids. As we made our way through the brightly painted dining room festooned with colorful flags and twinkly fairy lights we noticed pitchers of this concoction being poured into shot glasses all around.

Tomatillo tasty

I stuck with the standard margarita while PIP sipped his favorite lime Jarritos, a Mexican soft drink Pepitos stocks in several flavors. As we munched on chips and salsa, we awarded kudos to Pepitos on their salsas, mild and hot. The hot is not simply a kicked up version of the mild; instead it’s a completely different salsa made with smoky tomatillos, and packing quite a punch. We were into our second bowl when it came time to order appetizers, and by that time I had reached my fill of chips, so nachos were out. Pepitos offers lots of nacho options, but I decided to try a few favorite a la carte items instead, a tamale ($3.95) and a chile relleno ($4.95).

These were good solid efforts, both topped with red sauce and cheese. The relleno particularly got my attention with its oozy gooey cheese and egg battered poblano pepper. So far so good, PIP asserted and I agreed, looking forward to our entrees, carnitas ($13.95) and silpancho ($14.95). Carnitas, or “little meats,” is made by braising pork in oil (or preferably lard) until it becomes tender shards, usually for about 4 hours or so. The meat is flavored with garlic, oregano, cumin and chili. Before serving, it’s cooked for a minute at high heat to crisp it up a bit, and the result is a pile of tasty porky goodness. PIP and I both love carnitas, and found the Pepitos carnitas to be a winner. Served with refried beans, rice and fixings to roll up in a tortilla, we also noted that the restaurant offers a choice of either corn or flour.


The silpancho is really more of a Bolivian than Mexican dish. It’s a favorite that I couldn’t pass up, especially having already sampled some more typically Mexican fare. Silpancho is a thinly pounded piece of beef (Pepitos also offers chicken), breaded and fried, almost like schnitzel. Served on a bed of rice alongside black beans, it’s topped with fried eggs, and fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro and onion. However, it arrived not exactly as promised, without any breading. “We ran out,” the server explained, perhaps owing to the surge of Cinco De Mayo business that day. It was quite honestly still delicious, with the runny yolks mingling with the beans and rice, and the fresh crunch of the sweet onion and tomato. I look forward to trying it again with the added element of a little crispy coating on the meat.

As we looked around the dining room we saw lots of happy faces eating and drinking, and even some people snapping pics of each other with life size cardboard cut outs, the kind with an opening for your face. In one corner there were a pile of sombreros, and it seemed pretty certain a conga line might bust out at any minute, or maybe some Pee Wee Herman tabletop dancing to “Tequila.” It seemed the best time to make an exit. Forgoing dessert, we departed making our way past a phalanx of party patrons on their way in to get their Cinco De Mayo on, both agreeing we won’t wait till next May 5th to return. And just maybe we will plan to return to Pepitos next Cinco De Mayo, this time ready to party!

Pepitos Mexican Restaurant is located at 3618 Wilmington Pike in Kettering. For more information, please visit or call 937.293.3777.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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