It’s been about five months since New York Times food critic Pete Wells has reamed a restaurant, and, man, was it worth the wait.
Like his infamous Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar takedown, today Wells reviewed a restaurant that surely never saw him coming: a noisy, queso-slinging Tex-Mex spot that recently opened in Gramercy Park.
“My interest in telling the truth about this establishment could come into conflict with my interest in not having my butt kicked by angry Texans,” he wrote before going in on the restaurant that’s received a glowing review from Eater’s Robert Sietsema, a not-so-glowing review from New York magazine’s Adam Platt, and five-star praise from Texas natives on Yelp.
After voicing his distaste for Javelina’s noisy environs, the cocktail reviews — and some of the best one-liners from the whole rant — commence.
Fresh or frozen, the margaritas have a slight chemical taste that I was thankful for because it tended to keep my own alcohol intake to near-Mormon levels. I also stayed alert and sober when faced with the Tijuana Manhattan, made with tequila in the place of whiskey and served in a rocks glass with no ice at all, even though it was the temperature of a freshly killed snake.
Knives sharpened, he then lays into the appetizers and main courses, which were hit or miss (by a mile).
Though the queso was lukewarm and bland, the steak enchiladas boasted a “mouth-watering” sour cream sauce, and somehow the deep-fried “puffy tacos” managed to avoid offence. But back to that queso: One of the versions Wells tried was missing a key ingredient, black beans. After some sleuthing (read: dragging chips around the bottom of the bowl), the “mystery” was solved as his server delivered bowl of beans and said, “This is supposed to go with the queso.”
Even better than the case of the missing beans was the forgotten case of the forgotten guacamole.
At most restaurants, you are served what you ask for so routinely that your eyes glaze over with boredom. Javelina does not fall into the trap of dull predictability. One night after I left, I realised the guacamole I’d ordered had never arrived; it’s not every restaurant that gives you something to think about on your way home.
Despite not having a dessert menu, Javelina still ruined Wells’ dessert.
In lieu of an actual dessert menu, the restaurant gives each table a gratis plate of sopaipillas. Wells reports visiting three times but only receiving free sopaipillas once, just enough so he’d actually miss them.
The meal, and the review, ends with a thud as the check is “dropped without warning as soon as the last dirty plate has been cleared.”
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