Casual Restaurant Critic at Tony Roma’s

Adding to the already burgeoning list of franchises now open in Merida, Tony Roma’s (also known as Tommy Roman’s according to one dear friend) recently opened across from the City Center (Walmart) shopping center just off the periférico up in the northern half of the city, where the moneyed folks live.

The Critic loves himself some ribs, so when Better Half suggested dinner there, he was all over that idea like a hog on corn. If you have seen the Critic eat ribs, you know that to be a very accurate analogy.

The sparkling new restaurant is in yet another small plaza with the same ‘luxury’ theme so popular these days here in the formerly white city. It seems that everyone is after those big peso clients, the ones who make up the clase socioeconómica alta. What makes them alta of course is the fact that they don’t want to spend that money and so the niche is quite competitive.

A bubbly hostess who looks to be about 14 greets you at the second set of glass doors, the first of which no one will open for you but they aren’t that heavy so no big deal. She looks at the party and asks “para tres?” and since Better Half has invited LawyerCritic along, there are in fact three people and off they go, to a booth table in what is obviously the bar area of the restaurant. The music is loud, the TV screens dominate as do the varying shapes of the butts of the people sitting on bar stools at a raised table next to the booth.

The evening’s highlight is the clueless, almost Mr. Bean category waiter who shows up and asks if the table would like some drinks. LawyerCritic asks what’s the special drink of the house to which Mr Bean replies “the margaritas are good” pointing to a list of about 5 different margarita (called Romaritas – HA HA HA – clever). Upon further prompting he proceeds to haltingly describe one or two of them and finally the table orders a regular, a Cadillac and an habanero margarita.

When they arrive they come in shakers and a show is made of shaking and serving the drinks. The Cadillac is very sweet, the habanero is very sour with no spice to it and the regular one is… regular.

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After what seems an eternity, everyone’s friend Rowan comes back to see what they would like to order. Better Half orders the potato soup and a full rack of regular ribs.

“You want the full rack?” asks Mr. Bean, “or half”. Perhaps he didn’t hear Better Half so she repeated the order. He repeated it once again just to make Better Half feel like maybe she had a speech impediment or he was trying to send her a not very subliminal message about eating large portions late at night and then studiously made the annotation on his little order notepad. LawyerCritic wanted some pasta which didn’t cause too much consternation and the Critic ordered a rack with Makers Mark BBQ sauce.

“Bourbon?” asks Mr. Bean.

“Um, yes” replied the Critic, thinking up a witty retort to yet another seemingly pointless question.

Small side plates arrive which the Critic assumes are for depositing the lime garnishes from the drinks until sometime later, a little bit of bread arrives and some chilled butter. You haven’t experienced restaurant thrills until you are trying to alternately stab and spread some hard butter on your chunk of bread (warm) with a giant steak knife (see photo).

photo 1The ribs and pasta arrived a little while later, as the Critic, BetterHalf and LawyerCritic tried to make themselves heard over the noise.

Better Half asked “what about the soup?”

“Should I bring it?” replied Mr. Bean.

“NO I JUST ORDERED IT TO SCREW WITH YOUR MIND” and “NO, JUST KEEP IT IN THE KITCHEN AND SERVE IT TO ME FOR DESSERT” are what crossed the Critic’s mind but the always well-behaved Better Half being very polite simply said “yes please.”

Seeing that the glasses were empty, Mr. Bean reached and then leaned across the table presenting the better part of his upper torso to the Critic and Lawyer Critic as he vainly tried to grasp the glasses that were just beyond his reach. A simple ‘excuse me’ would have done the trick and Better Half would have handed him the empties. She asked him “would you like me to hand you these glasses?” and Mr. Bean replied “yes”, and lifted his semi-prostrate form off the table.

The simple request “Could we get some water?” was countered with “should I bring you a glass of water?” which begged a smart-ass reply like “NO DUDE, BRING ME ONE OF THOSE GARRAFONES OF WATER” but the Critic contained himself. Perhaps he was giving an option, but it wasn’t very clear.

The table tent in English read ‘Become a rib expert!’ and to ‘ask your server’ and so the Critic did.

“What is this all about?”

“I’ll bring you a form to fill out.”

Very informative. Thank you.

The ribs were fine, the french fries were excellent and the cole-slaw, the cheapest salad in the western hemisphere to make, was minuscule. Desserts were just fine, nothing to write home about or mention further in this blog. OK, there were two: a blackberry peach cobbler with ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

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Food verdict for this class of restaurant? Better (and more) ribs by far at Chili’s. Better margaritas by far at Chili’s. Better desserts by far at Chili’s or Friday’s.

Service? OMG clueless to the point of hilarity.

Room? A sports bar feel without the put-together feel of Boston’s or Fridays masquerading as an upscale dining joint for Merida’s wannabe’s.

The Critic foresees a dim future for the Tony Roma’s franchise in Merida if this keeps up.

For those of you wondering how much it is to dine at this fine establishment, the bill came to $950 pesos before a tip.

5 thoughts on “Casual Restaurant Critic at Tony Roma’s

  1. I avoid chains when possible. Here in Renton WA, we have a new BBQ venue, huge machine and smoker, guys from Texas. It is so good it makes me crazy.
    Thanks for the funny revue. I liked Mr. Bean leaning over the table. I’m afraid I would not have been as polite as you guys.

  2. Renton, huh? I was just in Vancouver and we could have popped down, but then it was a very short stay. I also love love love BBQ. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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