Friends called up and said ‘hey let’s meet at Altabrisa mall for dinner and gossip – we can have dinner at Chili’s’. With much trepidation, hesitation and consternation (considering the Critic’s only-too-recent frozen experience with Chili’s Liverpool) the Casual Restaurant Critic accepted, only for the chance to catch up with friends he hadn’t seen in a while.
Lo and behold, upon arriving, the gods smiled on the group in the form of a darkened Chilis! But then the Critic realized that the gods have a sense of humor and that the smile was sarcastic, because directly in front of Chili’s, the Fogoncito was all lights.
The Critic had been to the Fogoncito on a previous occasion or two and was still willing to give them the benefit of the opening-blues doubt. On this visit, the group of 7 was looked after in a timely fashion by a friendly waiter who seemed earnest, as did one of the managers who inquired as to how was the service, were orders taken, that kind of thing.
The food at the Fogoncito, as the Casual Restaurant Critic’s 17 readers know by now, is in the Mexican taco genre, with meats, melted cheeses and red and green tomato salsas. Try the Sopa Azteca, which is a thick, savory, tomato-y broth with melted cheese, sliced avocado, crispy fried tortilla strips and a poblano chile floating on top. Bite into this chile at your own risk. It is by no means a challenger to the King of Chiles, el habanero yucateco, but it can be spicy. The Fogoncito’s guacamole has been consistently excellent; fresh, green and chunky – the only caveat is the freshness of the tortilla chips that accompany the guacamole. There are always two (or more) chips that are noticeably soft and as the Mayans would say, sat’s. Again, for a taco restaurant, soft tortilla chips that are supposedly crispycrunchy is unforgivable. The Critic had, on this occasion, something whose name escapes him at this writing but was a tortilla made of fried cheese, wrapped around a chopped pork chop with bacon. After eating this the Critic popped a vein and had to be taken to the Star Médica hospital nearby for a thorough artery cleansing. Kidding.
The margarita – on the rocks, not frozen – came in a highball glass, about two thirds full but was extremely heavy on the sweet syrup and the Critic couldn’t finish more than a swallow or two. A Michelada (Sol, Tecate etc . no Coronas at the Fogoncito) was ordered instead, and that was very refreshing. Their horchata, with a dash of cinammon on top, is also the best in town.
So far so good. And it was. There was nothing to bitch about on this visit and the Fogoncito seemed well on the path to redemption in the Casual Critic’s aging eyes.
But alas, all is not well in the land of the soft tortilla chip and the excellent horchata.
Another visit, a few nights later after a hard days’ labor, resulted in a backslide for the Fogoncito, the Critic and his better half decided on a quick taco there. The table was greeted with a half-covered yawn by an exhausted waiter who commented that he was working a double shift. Nice of him to share that tidbit of information. The service went downhill from there. The food came out in shifts, with the arrachera accompaniments served along with the other people’s main dishes, with the actual meat appearing several minutes later. Salsas were running low at one point and another waiter took the entire salsa structure (the multiple little bowls contraption), never to return. After much hand waving and trying to get the attention of a hearing-deficient head waiter (you can tell the difference by the color of their shirts) another, different waiter was convinced to provide fresh salsas, all the while the food waited since you can’t enjoy a taco without salsas, right? Terrible service and again, the Fogoncito slipped down a couple of notches in the Casual Critic’s humble opinion.