Last night I stopped by the new Calexico outpost in Greenpoint, and if you want my brief review, it was awful. Calexico started out as a street-cart that is supposedly exceptionally good, I don’t know I’ve never been, but I was not a fan of the Greenpoint spot. Maybe I’m finicky when it comes to Mexican food, but I don’t know Mexican joint in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area that I would choose this one over. Everything Calexico tries to do somewhere has already done and does it better:
- If you’re looking for Queso Fundido: Go to La Superior. Actually, I recommend you go to La Superior immediately for that delicious bowl of melted cheese.
- If you want cocktails: Go to Mesa Coyoacan. They know how to make a damn good Margarita to accompany their delicious food. To give Calexico the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t try a Margarita, but I did try two of their other cocktails. One was a cilantro-infused gin base, that I think might have been worth it if they hadn’t finished it off by drowning it in grapefruit soda, and the other a Mezcal base with avocado. I thought it sounded intriguing , it was awful. I ended up just ordering a Modelo and a shot for $5 bucks, a lonely highlight.
- If you want tacos: Go anywhere else, La Superior, Mesa Coyoacan, Papacitos, Elote, El Tecolote, or even Union Pool (hell, their tacos are actually pretty damn tough to beat). The carne asada was alright, but I didn’t dig the taco as a whole, which gave it a rather low taco for your money ratio.
- If you want Barbeque, yes, Barbeque: Go to Fette Sau. I was stoked to see Tortas on the Calexico menu, a Mexican sandwich that I don’t think gets enough love. So I ordered the pulled pork torta, honestly thinking it would be carnitas or at least have some Mexican flavor, it tasted like Barbeque sauce.
- If you want French Fries, yes, French Fries: Go to a burger joint. French Fries don’t belong on Mexican menu, even if they are the only thing on the menu where you can taste Mexican spices.
- If you want atmosphere: Go to Mesa Coyoacan or El Tecolote for a more upscale feel. Go to Papacitos or Elote for more fun and relaxed ambiance. Anywhere you go you can get the same or better atmosphere with better food.
- If you want a $5 beer and a shot: Go to Union Pool. Ok, I’ll give Calexico credit here, that is a great deal, plus they have a ton of Sixpoints on tap; but I would still recommend Union Pool. I mean if you look for a cheap buzz you probably want cheap, delicious tacos too.
- If you want California style Mexican food: Get on the L train and go to Dos Toros in Union Square, it’s a hole-in-the-wall that does California Mexican food correctly.
All in all you can probably tell I didn’t enjoy my visit. This is a little disconcerting because the cart and their other brick and mortar have gotten such rave reviews. I can only go off my experience, and my experience has me wondering about the restaurants that will be moving into Williamsburg, but that’s a whole other post.
Full Disclosure: I went at 9pm on 2/9/11. It was crowded but the two of us didn’t have to wait more than a couple minutes for spots to open at the bar. We ordered the three drinks mentioned above, the Queso Fundido, a Carne Asada Taco, and a Pulled Pork Torta.