When we arrived, were greeted by a dead-eyed, heroin chic hostess in micro shorts who was obviously desperately wishing that she was somewhere (anywhere) else. We elected to dine in the charming courtyard and thus began our interminable wait for absolutely everything. We were seated for a full ten minutes before we were approached by our server, who was sweet but astonishingly inefficient. At this point, we didn't need a crystal ball to predict the pace of our meal, so our dining companion, Deb (who was about to have a blood sugar incident) quickly requested tortilla chips and dip while placing her beverage order in the futile hope that something could be obtained relatively quickly. When our drinks arrived another ten minutes later, the chips were still MIA. Fearing our server might forget to leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading back to our table, we completed our entire order before she wandered away (two additional apps and three lunch entrees).
At long last, all three appetizers arrived simultaneously. Chips and dips were good...queso was warm and creamy, guac fresh-tasting and cool. Bombas (shrimp, potato, chorizo and Chihuahua cheese croquettes served with habanero aioli) tasted mostly like potato. They were okay.
I was not blown away by the $6.00 empanadas. The ground sirloin picadillo stuffing lacked zip and the soggy, tomatillo sauce-soaked pastry crust made it impossible to pick up the hand pies.
Deb's Taco Salad (romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado, black bean salsa, queso fresco and chipotle Caesar dressing served in a flour tortilla bowl) was standard issue. She had it topped with a couple of little skewers of grilled shrimp for a $6.00 upcharge, which were fine.
Red Mesa's take on a Cuban sandwich (Telera bun pressed with roast pork, ham, jack cheese, homemade pickles and dijon mustard aioli) sounded better on paper than it actually was. While it wasn't bad and was loaded with tender, smoky pork, it didn't bear much resemblance to a classic Cuban either in taste or consistency. It was presented with five yuca fries and some chipotle ketchup for dipping.
UD identified a winner in his duck quesadilla. The moist, orange braised duck confit, jack cheese, goat cheese and pineapple proved to be a tasty combo that was pleasingly complemented by a honey chipotle vinaigrette.
So, there you have it. The word of the day was "okay", but food that's only "okay" doesn't get a return visit from me. El Gallo Grande is a much better choice for Mexican in the downtown/south St. Petersburg area.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.