New York Times critic pans Tex-Mex restaurant in Manhattan

The real Bob Armstrong Dip (right) at Matt's El Rancho. (Peter Yang AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The real Bob Armstrong Dip (right) at Matt’s El Rancho. (Peter Yang AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Excellent New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells used his most recent review to explore Manhattan restaurant Javelina’s “authentic Tex-Mex.”

Wells begins his review with a wink and nod to (and smirk at) Texas exceptionalism :

“I like Texans. I love their food and their music and their boots. I admire their ability to tame landscapes that are hostile to human life. I respect how quick they are to stick up for their state and its culture. In fact, I may be slightly afraid of Texans. I have no desire to mess with them. I can read the bumper stickers.”

He goes on to say that the state pride had him a little worried about having to possibly say something critical about our national food. He closes his entry with a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic curtsy: “Lucky for me, I have only good things to say about Javelina.”

After that misdirect, he spends the next several hundred words mocking what sounds like a pretty miserable restaurant experience. A few outtakes:

On the obnoxious noise (to which some Austin diners may be able to relate): “It always sounds as if somebody were telling a woman at the far end of the table that he had just found $1,000 under the menu, and the woman were shouting back that Ryan Gosling had just texted and he’s coming to the restaurant in, like, five minutes!”

On the odd beauty (and apparent disaster at Javelina) that is queso: “One of Javelina’s calling cards, queso, is usually suggested by the servers when taking orders. Occasionally this Tex-Mex cheese fondue is served hot, but more often it arrives lukewarm, which prevents trips to the emergency room. The cooler temperature offers the added benefit of allowing a latex-like film to congeal on top, which provides an interesting contrast in texture with the liquefied cheese below.”

Wells notes that Javelina, opened earlier this year by Dallas native Matt Post, serves both a Bob Armstrong and a Mag Mud, obvious rips of the dishes from Matt’s El Rancho and Magnolia Café. It is not clear whether Javelina asked either restaurant

On the gruff protocol and lack of hospitality: “The best news of all, for anybody who hates waiting around to settle the tab: There is no need to ask for the check. It is dropped without warning as soon as the last dirty plate has been cleared, and sometimes even earlier.”

For Wells’ complete critique of the restaurant, check out the full review here. And, while we’re talking negative reviews from Wells, if you haven’t read his 2012 review of Guy Fieri’s Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan, check that out here.





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