New York

Love/Hate Mama' Mexico (W 102 & B'way)

This place has probably the best, freshest, most carefully prepped Mexican in the city, and yes, you do pay for it. Don't believe me? - Do a dry run by ordering a basic combo platter, all items you've gloopity-glooped through at other places before. Here, the tamale is pristinely executed, with a firm, flavorful delivery, and the chile relleno is far more than a melted block of spicy Jack ensconed in a pepper. Chimchangas? Awesome. I could go on about the food...

It's alot else that irks, though. The service is way, WAY too stuffy, from the besuited and betied maitre d' at lunch to the plurality of servers just standing around, like sentinels ringing a fort. They're also overdressed. There are always the wallet-gouging specials, even at lunch and even with an 8-page menu. (Just ask not to hear them - they'll make it stop.) Service takes awhile, but only because it's DELIBERATELY slow, to artificially formalize the dining experience. This is also another place that insists upon dining clusters - if there's one other occupied table in the whole place, be sure you'll end up sitting right next to it. But my big peeve is the customer-assisted Changing of the Table Paper, in which after your meal and before the dessert course (and by the way, no one there cares whether you're actually having dessert - YOU'RE GONNA HELP CHANGE THE PAPER) a sentinel with a fresh piece of white table paper will come over, say to you "Change the paper", and expect you to lift up everything off the old table paper so the paper can be changed. You've got your hands full managing a 15-month old? - too bad, change the paper. Busy reading the latest installment of Connolly's "The Overlook" in the Times Magazine? - too bad, change the paper. And of course, you've already asked for the check before the paper sentinel appears (didn't I mention that?).

I'll return for the food and the home proximity, but pretty soon, we're gonna decline the paper change just to test the waters of defiance...


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