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Don Pablo's - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Dining

Since we started staying in our own home back in November 2004 we very rarely visit the restaurants on International Drive as most of the major chains have locations closer to home. However if we decide we would like some Mexican Food then we head straight for Don Pablo’s at the south end of I drive close to the convention centre. This is one of a chain of restaurants established in Texas back in 1985 that now has over 100 outlets across the Eastern US with 5 locations in the greater Orlando area.

Set in a building that is designed to look like a “typical” Mexican cantina with terracotta coloured plaster walls and high ceilings Don Pablo’s provides reasonably priced good sized portions of lots of classic dishes, whose origins can be traced back over 200 years to the plains of central Mexico.

When you are first seated a basket of warm tortilla chips is placed in the middle of the table and each person is given a small dish of freshly made spicy tomato salsa to dip them in, these help whet your appetite while you make your selections from the menu. If you have not tried Mexican fare before there are lots of combination platters or “combinacions” available which offer samples of several different dishes on the one plate. These offer great value for money and a chance to try dishes that you may be unsure of. There is also a selection of soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and chimighangas but I must admit tempting though the selection is we usually plump for our old favourite fajitas. Up until recently these came in a choice of steak, chicken, shrimp or half steak and half chicken but they have now added grilled portabella mushroom, chorizo sausage, cilantro-lime mahi mahi and peppercorn skirt steak to the list so the choice is definitely becoming more difficult. Wednesday is fajitas day so the chicken and steak fajitas are even more tempting because they are on “special” at only $8. 99 each.

If you’ve saved room for dessert then offerings such as fried ice cream, margarita chimichanga cheesecake (lime cheesecake rolled in floured tortilla and fried), sopapillas, a plate of fried puff pastries sprinkled with icing sugar served with brandy butter sauce and chocolate volcano cake served with vanilla ice cream in a melted chocolate butter sauce are very tempting but not for the diet conscious. They also have a good range of very large Margaritas that make a nice treat for the non drivers in the party.

Don Pablo’s is particularly popular on May 5th which is a Mexican holiday known as “Cinco de Mayo”. When we were there for the celebrations last year there was a wandering Mariachi band providing live entertainment inside and the popular Mexican children’s party game piñata (where brightly coloured model animals full of sweets are hit with sticks until they burst open) was being played in the small outdoor courtyard. It certainly provided a great atmosphere for an enjoyable meal.

This restaurant is popular with all age groups and can get really busy once the convention delegates head out for dinner so arrive early or be prepared to wait.

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