Review: Penca rocks the urban chic

2013-06-26T12:34:00Z 2013-06-26T16:08:34Z Review: Penca rocks the urban chicKristen Cook Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 26, 2013 12:34 pm  • 

If restaurants were people, this one would be that girl.

You know the one.

Smart. Witty. She always looks great and knows exactly the right thing to say. When she throws a party, everyone comes because it’s guaranteed to be awesome all the way around: The food will be amazing, the music spot-on, guests all have a killer time, and she makes it look so effortless.

That girl’s name … Penca.

The restaurant — which opened in March at 50 E. Broadway — is the latest addition to the growing number of downtown culinary hot spots that look and feel like they were plucked off the streets of some much bigger, swankier city.

Penca, with its well-worn wood and faded bricks, rocks an urban-chic yet rustic vibe. Owners Ron and Patricia Schwabe have crafted a charming, intimate space using mostly reclaimed materials from historic buildings they’ve restored through their company, Peach Properties. Lots of metal and scarred wood. The silverware’s mismatched, and beer as well as sangria — a Spanish punch that’s popular here — arrive at the table in Mason jars.

You know you’ve hit paydirt as soon as you sit down and the chips and tomatillo salsa arrive. Crisp and salted, these chips are fresh-made and perfectly fine naked, eaten one after another, bowl after bowl. But the slightly chunky salsa, with its gentle spice and tart, slightly citrusy tang, is pretty darn addictive.

Penca's Mexico City cuisine boasts the humblest of dishes — tacos made of lengua (tongue) and cabeza (head) — to an elegant chile en nogada, a stuffed chile with a rich walnut sauce.

But back to the humble stuff: Penca offers chicharrónes ($5) — fried pork rinds — that were big, crunchy clouds of porkaliciousness.

For the full review, see Thursday's Caliente.

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