The canvas umbrellas on the patio beckoned, but upon entering, I was surprised to see this was an order-at-the-counter place. The immense space is done in dark wood with big signs that say "burros," "tacos" and "margaritas." These "decorations" and a torn banquette seat that had been duct-taped made the place feel a tad worn down.
But my favorite Mexican restaurant has a similar set-up, so I was willing to set aside the décor - especially if the food was good.
Much has changed since The Tribune last visited in 2003. "Bistro" became "grill" in the restaurant's name. Families and casual diners have replaced sports enthusiasts with the removal of two of three televisions. And a limited liquor license now allows for margaritas and beer with a meal.
The menu covers the basics - enchiladas, burritos, chiles rellenos and tacos - which top out at $11.98. Kids can choose a quesadilla, bean-and-cheese burrito or ground-beef taco with dessert for $1.98. Baby back ribs ($16.98) and "Judy's" hamburgers ($3.55-$4.95) round out the otherwise Mexican menu.
If you start your meal with chips and salsa, take note that Pete's aren't gratis. An order of chips costs $2.98, and they arrive hot and salty but with salsa that tastes of canned tomato sauce. The other three salsas, tomatillo, hot red chile "puia" and pico de gallo at the salsa bar, are much better.
As for entrees, the chile verde burro ($8.98) is a behemoth soft-flour burrito filled with delicious kicky chile verde. The accompanying black beans are well seasoned, and the light green-hued rice is accented with green chiles and cilantro rather than the ubiquitous red rice.
I wish the kitchen would give the same care to its cadillac and mango margaritas ($6.30). They came in kitschy cactus-shaped goblets that were leaded.
Enchiladas ($8.68-8.98) come with myriad stuffing options - cheese, chicken, pork or beef (ground, steak or shredded). Choose either Nogales style (rolled) or Arizona style (layered). The three rolled shredded beef enchiladas, coated in a tomato-based Nogales sauce, were just OK compared to the fish tacos.
Pieces of battered and deep-fried tilapia (or shrimp, $7.98) are nestled in two double-wrapped warm corn tortillas. I found myself scooping up every last bite of the chunky, creamy salsa-y sauce that is heaped atop the fish.
For the undecided, there are three combination platters ($7.78-$10.68). My dining companion and I shared the No. 1 with two Nogales tacos, one chile relleno and one chicken tamale with rice and black beans.
The relleno, though well prepared, is made with a jalapeño. Talk about incendiary.
The tender baby backs come with a side of sauce, a plain green salad with great-tasting jalapeño-ranch dressing, a flour tortilla and a baked potato half. The dry ribs and potato were lukewarm, the sad products of reheating.
I am glad I kept searching for Pistol Pete's. I can't rave about the atmosphere, but the above-average fare - and my fish taco cravings - means I will return.
Lesli J. Neilson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her phone number is 801-257-8661. Send comments about this review to livingeditor@ sltrib.com.
Pistol Pete's packs some heat
Overall rating »
Food » Mood » Service » Noise » 1 bell
In a nutshell: Casual Mexican with above-average dishes such as the chile verde burro and fish tacos. Enjoy a 99-cent chocolate shake for dessert.
Where » 2477 E. Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights; 801-944-1833
Hours » Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Web site » pistolpetes.info
Children's menu » Yes
Prices » $
Liquor » Limited full bar
Reservations » Accepted
Takeout » Yes
Wheelchair access » Yes
Outdoor dining » Yes
On-site parking » Yes
Credit cards » All major