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Picante in Berkeley

P.J. Dec 26, 2000 07:09 PM

I read a message on this board that Picante mexican restaurant in Berkeley is very good mexican food. Sorry (NOT). My husband and I ate at Picante this afternoon we both ordered the enchilada chicken mole.
The order came with rice and beans. I know those beans were thrown out of the can on to the plate, they looked and taste like it. The rice was very dry. The chicken mole was terrible. Picante serves big portions but I perfer quality over size.


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  1. n
    nwrenn RE: P.J. Feb 26, 2007 07:42 AM

    I'm sorry you had a bad experience there. You must have hit them on a bad day. I have no idea if the beans come straight from a can or not, but Picante is an amazing mexican restaurant. Thier guacamole is fresher than ever and their burritios are the best in the bay. They make satasfying, wholesome Mexican without tons of grease. Try the tortilla soup and the burritos before making up your mind... and the guac.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nwrenn
      Melanie Wong RE: nwrenn Feb 26, 2007 09:28 AM

      The original post is from 2000, more than six years ago.

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Feb 26, 2007 12:28 PM

        Maybe there weren't so many negative reports back then.

    2. Robert Lauriston RE: P.J. Feb 26, 2007 08:01 AM

      There are lots of mixed to negative reports about Picante here. It's a very Berkeley-ized version of Mexican food. The quality of the ingredients is very high (very unlikely they use canned beans), but the food is often bland and it's relatively expensive compared with real Mexican restaurants, and some dishes are ill-conceived.

      You can eat well if you order the right items (provided they haven't changed the recipe for the worse since your last visit). On my last visit the guacamole was not one of them:


      I don't know anyplace to get good mole or other Oaxacan dishes in the area. For Jalisco-style Mexican, I send people to El Huarache Azteca:


      1. d
        drobbia RE: P.J. Feb 26, 2007 08:03 AM

        I've never had a bad experiance like that at Picante - did you complain to the mgr. and get your money back?

        1. r
          rightstar RE: P.J. Feb 26, 2007 08:52 AM

          The last time I ate at Picante the carnitas were drenched in oil so much they were almost inedible. The beans were also greasy. Maybe it was a bad night but I haven't been back since.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rightstar
            chemchef RE: rightstar Feb 26, 2007 02:13 PM

            My husband and I eat there at least once a week. We're from SoCal and grew up on good Mexican food. Picante is definitely Berkeley-ized, but in a good way. I like knowing that the food is made with fresh ingredients etc. This is not a bad thing!

            Our standards are chips and guac (the chips are outstanding and the guac has always been fresh when we've ordered it), carne asada plato, pollo asado plato, carnitas plato, sopa azteca (especially good), flautas, chile verde plato (also excellent).

            Carnitas can be greasy b/c they are traditionally made with pork butt (shoulder), which in and of itself has a good amount of fat on it. If you don't like the greasiness, get the pollo asado. Its very tasty.

            My husband always get the refried beans with his platos, and loves them... I alternate b/w pinto and black, both of which I find very tasty, flavorful and not 'greasy'.

            1. re: chemchef
              Robert Lauriston RE: chemchef Feb 26, 2007 02:51 PM

              When I was there two months ago the guacamole was good but a very small portion, padded with shredded lettuce, and the chips were cut weirdly so that many pieces were too narrow to dip.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                chemchef RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 26, 2007 03:01 PM

                Interesting.... never had those problems.

                We were there last Thursday and had an ample supply of guacamole (we often get it to go and usually have leftovers the next day. I dump half a container of salsa verde on top to keep it from browning and it tastes great the next day!). I also noticed people nearby who had ordered the guacamole to eat in and theirs was served in a shallow oval dish w/o any lettuce.

                The chips are always ~1 inch wide strips when I order them. Maybe you got some of the thin ones they use for the Sopa Azteca by accident? In any case, they've always been very accommodating to us, so I'm sure that if you asked for more chips they'd be happy to give you some to finish your guacamole.

          2. d
            dotMac RE: P.J. Mar 11, 2007 09:55 AM

            Their chicken mole burrito (super style) is the best burrito I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I'm not in the area often and always get one when I am.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dotMac
              Glencora RE: dotMac Mar 11, 2007 11:01 AM

              I used to like it. I still kind of do... But it has pineapple in it. The pineapple makes me squimish, though I'm not sure why. I guess it doesn't bother you?

            2. m
              mare RE: P.J. Mar 11, 2007 09:34 PM

              I have eaten at Picante at least a hundred times in the last five years. The canitas tostada is by far the best I have ever eaten, anywhere, and I lived in a mexican neighborhood in chicago for five years. Try it with a flour tortilla, refried beans.
              The chicken flautas are also excellent, but not to take out, eat-in only.
              I do not like the burritors except for the manchanmateles. The chicken enchiladas do not use the same mole - they suck, as do the tacos, in my opinion.

              1. c
                chingcm RE: P.J. Mar 12, 2007 09:26 PM

                I agree with you. I've been there several times in efforts to give them another chance. I've never been crazy about it. I would much rather go to Tacubaya/

                1. b
                  bigskybabs RE: P.J. Apr 29, 2009 09:14 AM

                  I am surprised to hear that you had a bad experience at Picante. I have eaten there for 13 years and know a couple of things for certain: Everything is cooked from scratch. The handmade corn tortillas for christ'ssake are made from fresh masa, not even rehydrated masa harina, so why would they then pour beans out of a can? They don't.

                  I recommend you give them another shot and if it's not up to par, speak with a manager. They always bend over backwards to make their customers happy.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bigskybabs
                    Robert Lauriston RE: bigskybabs Apr 29, 2009 09:24 AM

                    I think the main problem with Picante is that too many of the customers they bend over backwards for don't like most traditional Mexican dishes.

                    1. re: bigskybabs
                      BernalKC RE: bigskybabs Apr 29, 2009 09:27 AM

                      If you're a fan, you might consider letting sleeping dogs lie. This is a 2-year old thread.

                      But as long as we're here. I agree with the Berkeley-ized Mexican characterization -- Berk-Mex?? I'm not a fan, for what its worth. Just a matter of taste. But I give them credit for their ingredients and freshness.

                      1. re: BernalKC
                        Ruth Lafler RE: BernalKC Apr 29, 2009 09:34 AM

                        Although the most recent prior comments were two years ago, the initial post bigskybabs is responding to goes back to 2000!

                    2. Robert Lauriston RE: P.J. Oct 9, 2012 06:07 PM

                      Business lunch ordering from Picante. Any recent recommendations? I don't want a huge pile of starch that time of day. Anybody tried the carne en su jugo “guadalajara-style”?


                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 9, 2012 09:10 PM

                        hm. 12 years later, i still think they suck. sorry, no help to you...
                        someone else will be, i'm sure.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          sundeck sue RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 9, 2012 10:56 PM

                          never tried carne en su jugo "guadalajara style".

                          either of the following works for low-starch lunch @ picante: manchamantales tostada (don't eat the taco shell) or seviche (ditto re not eating chips) and a salad.

                          assume you're doing carry-out, if you're eating there, another possibility: tortilla soup.

                          1. re: sundeck sue
                            wolfe RE: sundeck sue Oct 10, 2012 01:26 AM

                            Actually the Sopa Azteca works as take out. Remember to get soup extender at the salsa bar and eschew the chip strips.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                            sydthekyd RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 10, 2012 07:13 PM

                            The tostada salads are good, I like it with black beans, corn tortilla and grilled chicken plus plenty of their salsa verde.

                            1. re: sydthekyd
                              Ridge RE: sydthekyd Oct 10, 2012 09:08 PM

                              Carnitas tacos

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Robert Lauriston RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 11, 2012 12:42 PM

                              I got the carne in su jugo, one of the better dishes I've had from Picante. Good deep-flavored broth, a bit spicy which is rare for them.

                            3. t
                              TopoTail RE: P.J. Jan 8, 2013 11:52 AM

                              Wife and I went there last night, and we felt it had lost a step. We've eaten there many times over the years. I tend to order the Sopa Azteca and my wife almost always orders the carne asada tacos. Last night she felt that the tacos were bland. She remembers them coming with chunks of chile and a nice spicy sauce, but these had no chile and almost no discernible spicing. She also remembers the carne asada as chunks of beef, while last night it was kind of ground up.

                              My Sopa Azteca was decent with lots of chicken and a nice broth, but it seems to me they've really cut down on the spicing over the past couple of years. It just doesn't have the kick it used to.

                              I'm wondering if they've cut down on the spicing to cater to customers who freak out at the smallest hint of heat.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: TopoTail
                                Robert Lauriston RE: TopoTail Jan 8, 2013 11:57 AM

                                Maybe your tolerance has increased? I always thought it was ironic that the place was called Picante since I'm always surprised when anything I get there is the least bit spicy.

                                1. re: TopoTail
                                  wolfe RE: TopoTail Jan 8, 2013 12:47 PM

                                  Remember to use the "soup extender" by using the salsa provided. Always kicks it up to my spice level.

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