There are two things that come to mind when thinking about Fontana: bad drivers and Mexican restaurants. Both abound in this city, and if you’re not careful, can leave you with bodily harm and wasted money. But while you can’t always predict the bad driving in Fontana, you can always predict a zesty, good time at Pancho Villa’s Mexican Grill.
The restaurant refers to itself as “one of the best kept secrets in Southern California,”—probably because it’s nestled between a 24-hour Fitness, and the 10 Freeway. But exteriors can be misleading. Once you walk in, you are immediately greeted by an ornate fountain, overflowing with fake flowers and pictures of Mariachi Internacional de Mexico—a Mariachi band that performs there every day, whether the place is packed or dead. Farther on, you may run into a taxidermy chicken and a horse-drawn carriage, which makes the restaurant look so desirable that even Cinderella had to stop in for a late-night taco run.
Like other Mexican restaurants, nationalistic flags and multi-colored tapestries are draped everywhere. But unlike other Mexican restaurants, major detail was put into the wall murals—including an enormous tribute to some of the most famous actors from the Golden Age of Cinema Mexico in the 30s and 40s like Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and even 1960’s Javier Solis.
And here’s the deal: it’s all a bit over the top, but at least you know this place is serious about their Mexican cuisine.
Once you’ve indulged in tortilla chips, which are fried perfectly and re-filled frequently, and salsa that’s spicy enough to taste authentic, you can get anything entrée-wise—fajitas, milanesa, albondigas, and burritos (of course), to less common food items such as the avocado relleno, which might be a misnomer since it’s actually a salad with an avocado inside of it, and a shrimp concoction inside of that. It’s tasty but not spicy, and so perfect for those sensitive IBSer’s out there. Other shrimp plates such as the camarones rancheros (shrimps with Mexican salsa) are available, but we recommend the shrimp enchilada combination plate. It’s large enough for two, and consists of a generously portioned amount of refried beans, rice and the shrimp, which are not your usual dehydrated, noodle-cup things that often substitute at other joints.
Wash down this or any meal with a Villa Margarita—it’s worth the cost, and potent, but this place gets a bit more adventurous with the desserts. Try the apple burrito and a chimichanga cheesecake an always make room for the fried ice cream—a creamy ball of vanilla, breaded and deep-fried inside a cinnamon tostada shell and topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a cherry.
The prices and dishes at Pancho’s are comparable to other traditional Mexican restaurants, but so much thought has been put into this place, that an evening here appeals to more than just one of the five senses. So if you’re in Fontana, or not far from it, and you want to go somewhere that doesn’t serve falafel, hummus, rice noodles or whatever it is that the trendy-cool people are eating these days, then give Pancho Villa’s a try. Appreciate the foreign cuisine of Mexico that is not Del Taco—you won’t be disappointed.
Pancho Villa’s Mexican Grill Restaurant and Entertainment 10210 Juniper Ave. Fontana, (909) 356-0906. Price for two: $30-60. Open 7 Days a week. Reservations taken.