While most of us were shivering through an exceptionally snowy winter, Pierre Mesa was tasting the tropics. The former Culinary Institute of America chef-instructor returned to Vermont this spring following a four-month taqueria tour of Mexico and the southwestern United States, which he vigilantly documented on a Facebook page devoted to his new restaurant.
By the end of June, Mesa and his lifelong best friend and business partner, Cameron Mosher, will open Don Pedro’s Authentic Mexican Taqueria at 46 Main Street in Winooski. Don’t expect the new restaurant to look like the Quiznos that until recently occupied the space. Mesa, a native of Telluride, Colo., has enlisted local family members to paint a trompe l’oeil to make Don Pedro’s look like “basically, a 3-D Mexican village,” he says. “It will be like ordering out of a faux marketplace.”
The décor may sound elaborate, but Mesa says the biggest difference between his and other Mexican joints in the Burlington area will be simple: “The difference is, our food is going to have flavor.” Fresh flavor, at that. His relatives will grow much of the produce on their Elmore farm, and Black River Produce is hooking up Don Pedro’s with local meat.
That will come in handy for the taqueria’s signature item, al pastor tacos. Spanish for “shepherd style,” the chile-rubbed pork is roasted on a gyros-style spit, which Mesa plans to display in the restaurant’s window. He’ll also showcase Mexican-style rôtisserie chickens, which will be available in meals for four or five people with rice, beans, tortillas and a range of homemade salsas for less than $20.
Those salsas, prepared in small batches in the open kitchen, will incorporate pickled carrots, onions and jalapeños, along with fresh cilantro, flavored sour creams and a homemade version of Cholula hot sauce. They’ll dress burritos, quesadillas, taquitos and salads, all of which can be made vegetarian with tempeh or tofu fillings. Vegans can eat the black, pinto and refried beans that come with combo meals, and the tortilla soup will be joined by vegan black bean.
Mesa plans to update daily specials on Don Pedro’s Twitter feed, @bigmanpierreDon. For now, Mexican-food lovers may want to stay posted for news of the opening.