Dining Del Lago 2012

(Up toward the) lakeside dining

Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant

4919 Hudson Bend Rd.; 266-3231
Sunday-Thursday, 7am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 7am-10pm

While I waited for a friend to join me for lunch at Los Pinos recently, I tried to recall some of the different restaurants that have inhabited this space during my Chronicle tenure. For years, it seemed the ramshackle old lake lodge had a revolving door with restaurants opening in time for summer and closing by the end of the year. Margarito Maldona­do's Los Pinos has been here a little over two years and has even made a comeback after a serious fire on July 5, 2011. The building's funky interior was improved by the post-fire remodel and the dining rooms are comfortable enough, offering utilitarian rooms in which to eat and drink.

The large menu reads impressively, with a balance of Tex-Mex and Interior Mexican dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The tortillas are made fresh daily as are the delightful aguas frescas. Elegant and delicious desserts are a pleasant surprise. However, most of the food we tried can best be described as plentiful, but uninspired. The portions are enormous, but the quality of the basic ingredients is relatively low, which is not a trade-off I find appealing. The Botana Platter ($10.99) was built around a bowl of chile con queso that was nothing but cheese sauce – no chiles, onions, tomatoes, or seasonings of any kind – some quesadillas filled with dry, stringy chicken, a few nachos, some guacamole, and a big scoop of ceviche that tasted a few days old. Big disappointment. Our entrées were not much of an improvement. The chile relleno ($9.99) was a gigantic poblano pepper stuffed with greasy, unseasoned ground beef – rather than traditional picadillo – batter fried and drowned in a couple of cups of toothache-sweet mole poblano sauce. Enough rice and beans to feed a small family did not enhance this unfortunate relleno at all. It could be that the owner has his lake-area clientele figured out and knows they care more about serving size than food quality, but it doesn't work for me.

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