There are nights when my idea of going out to dinner conjures up dreams of being pampered by several people on the wait staff, ordering off a menu full of foreign or fancy words, trying unidentifiable dishes that require dissecting with each bite, sipping a series of wines that coincide with the courses and having the conversation mostly consist of what we’re eating.
And then there are nights when I want to go to a place with a laid back vibe and a friendly staff, not have to look up words in the dictionary just to order my dinner, eat familiar food with friends and talk about anything but what’s sitting in front of us. Usually those nights come after a long, stressful week when my mood and my energy is in need of some serious boosting.
Last week on one of those exhausted nights, my friend and I went to Billy Blanco’s in Park City. The Tex Mex restaurant, self-described as “Motor City Mexican,” serves both Mexican and American favorites, traditionally familiar dishes designed to please palates that range from your picky friend to your young niece. It’s part bar in design, but friendly enough for families. Really, Billy Blanco’s is whatever you need it to be.
What stands out most at Billy Blanco’s is the decor. Graffiti-style pop stars and iconic trademarks colorfully line the walls (I even spied Park City’s own Skullcandy logo), authentic vintage cars and motorcycles are used as decor, and the garage theme has been taken into consideration on everything from the mechanic cloth napkins to the leather racer-striped seats to the wrench doorhandles.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: theme restaurants can be pretty cheesy — but when they’re done right, they can be quite catchy. Billy Blanco’s walks a fine line of almost being too much, but I found myself admiring the thought that went into every detail so I think it’s safe to say I liked it.
It’s clear by the drink menu that Billy Blanco’s is designed to be a place to imbibe. It has an extensive list of beers (including drafts, local and imported bottles), a handful of wines (affordable options by the glass and bottle), a liquor list emphasizing tequila and a cocktail menu favoring the margaritas. It is after all, at least partially, a Mexican place.
The food menu is divided by Mexican food and American food. Starters are a mixture of both cultures, bringing in bar favorites from both like chicken wings, cheese fries, nachos, and barbecue ribs.
The guacamole sampler caught our eye so we tried the Chipotle & Orange, Bacon/Grilled Pineapple/Pickle Jalapeño, and Roasted Tomatillo/Pepitas/Cotija Cheese trio. The tomatillo was the surprising favorite; the large chunks of oranges were distracting in the chipotle and the bacon and pineapple lost its pizzazz after a few bites. The traditional guacamole we ended up ordering was the true winner, so be boring and stick to that for a fail-safe dip.
There’s a whole section of tacos stuffed with baja fish, mushrooms, pork cheeks and short ribs. Luckily there’s also a taco sampler ($17) with three tacos plus a chimichangita (a mini version of the deep-fried bean burrito). We picked the Tejano Smoked Short Rib with cilantro and red chile crema, Baja Fish with shaved cabbage and Cachete Carnitas pork cheeks. The short rib and pork cheeks were favorites and I liked the variety. (I especially liked not having to pick just one!)
The rest of the Mexican menu has traditional items like chicken enchiladas in a green sauce ($12), burritos, fajitas (chicken $13/shrimp $17/veggie $11) and a Carne Asada Quesadilla ($12) with marinated steak, bacon (why not?) and several cheeses topped with pico de gallo. I was surprised that they were so flavorful and so filling.
The “Gringo” side of the menu is full of burgers (cheeseburger $11, barbecue $17, pork cheek $17 and garden $11), sandwiches (Philly fajita $14, short rib $12 and chicken $11) and a buttermilk fried chicken ($15) with chile-pecan praline and chipotle honey sauce that was tempting me away from the Mexican menu.
There are desserts, too, like root beer floats, sundaes and chocolate cake that I dreamed of having if I wasn’t so full. But I’ll have to wait until next time and try to hold back on the guacamole (is that even possible?).
Billy Blanco’s isn’t the culinary superstar capable of mind-blowing dishes like some of the other Bill White restaurants, but it’s an enjoyable place to go with friends for a casual meal and a few margaritas.
Go to Billy Blanco’s for :: a casual meal of Mexican or American food (or both!). Notes :: Open 7 days a week. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-9 pm and Friday-Saturday 11 am-10 pm. It’s located near the Jeremy Ranch exit. Check out their list of specials, including Sunday concerts and specialty-priced appetizers. Friend them on facebook here.