Monday, December 3, 2012

Patron Mexican Grill

I've been avoiding this tackily branded establishment for a while now. They seemed to pop-up over night, and in locations all over the west side, distracting from the usual jumble of sleek foodie restaurants and gaudy Asian fusion that generally peppers mid-town along 9th avenue.  I'd further avoided Patron  (be warned of the link, the music about to come from your speakers is trite and annoying) because of the unexpectedly high prices for:

a.) Mexican Food, and 
b.) What seems to be a pre-fabricated local chain.

 Even in NY, I don't expect most places that offer a $5 Margarita to charge more than $2.50 for a taco, especially since there is still at least once place in the Lower East Side that offers dollar tacos (on tuesdays only. If you order a beer. Review coming soon).

Anyway, I eventually caved because they were offering a groupon for half off dinner for two, so I grabbed by beau and made her eat tacos with me.  Here's what we found:

The Taco: 4/5

I hate to say it, but the darn thing was pretty good. There is a pattern to ordering tacos in NY, and Patron fits itpretty well.  If you're at a trendy restaurant feel safe ordering the steak, if it's a hole-in-the-wall taco joint stick with Carnitas, Chorizo, Lengua, etc. In general, avoid the chicken. Patron's prices are higher, but it's because they offer tacos with things like nicely marinated and grilled skirt steak. It almost misses the taco experience since it's more like having a nice steak that happens to be wrapped in a corn tortilla, but they save it with a proper marinade and the right sort of toppings. To their credit, their tortillas are handmade and quite good - a quintessential part of the authentic experience often missed in NY. The meat was stellar. Grilled like a steak and chopped after so it may be cooked to order. Tender and delicious. The Carnitas were exceptional and mixed with some sort of sweet fruit (mango? Pineapple?) or perhaps marinated in the right fruit juices that made it a unique treat. If you go with a friend order one of each and split them, you'll be happy you did.

Acoutrement: 2/5
There were sauces, I'm sure of that because I have pictures. They apparently weren't worthy of note taking. I will say that when meat is that good, there is no reason to cover it up with sauces unless they are exquisite. I'd not call them that, I'd call them forgettable, which is too bad because I'm usually a sucker for mysterious looking dark orange sauces. I did enjoy the addition of avocado, that always helps and the side of beans and rice makes it a full meal, but they definitely lacked in the salsa category.

Value: 2/5
Regardless of how much I actually enjoyed the food when it got to my mouth, the price of the place has kept me from going again, which makes me think the final cost/experience ratio is lacking. I was charged $17 for 4 tacos that, while tasty and filling, still comes out to over $4 a taco, and homey don't play that. Go with a groupon or if you plan on balancing your bill with the $5 margaritas.

Other: 2/5
$5 margaritas are noteworthy, though not exceptional, the service was slow, ambiance loud, and the other food offerings were uncomfortably priced for Mexican cuisine. I do need to mention the Avocado fries. Remember when Burger King came out with Chicken Fries? This is disappointingly nothing like that. Avocado fries are a sort of deep fried ice cream, substituting the traditionally delicious dairy product for avocado. This had a ton of potential to be crispy and delicious and cool, but it was overly bready and doughy and....well, just not what one might hope for. So don't be tempted! They sound like a good idea, but if good sounds were delicious, there'd be no such thing as a starving musician.

In the end, the tacos were a much better experience than I was expecting but the price/atmosphere/service dragged this rating down pretty far. If your friends are looking for a bar experience and you are looking for tacos (and don't mind shelling out for them) go to Patron, otherwise I'd check some of the earlier blog posts for decent tacos in the $2.50 range.