NYE Dinner in the Space City

by Gilbert Keith

Yesterday was the first full day I spent in Space City doing space-y things. Well, I’m assuming that occupying space in a give time counts as a space-y thing, so we might disagree on that.

I had dinner at Guadalajara. Specifically the downtown location. It was all right. I would rate it a solid 3.7-3.9 stars on a 1 – 5 scale.

Plus points for having great tortilla chips – they were super thin and crispy, unsalted, and generally awesome. 50% of my dinner probably consisted of eating the chips.

I got a small order for empanadas in the appetizer menu. They were ok – not particularly tasty. The cheese they used made it nice and cheesy; and filling, too. They came with a green sauce of some kind; I am not sure what it was, and menu doesn’t mention any kind of sauce either. I probably should have asked what it was… but I wasn’t the greatest fan. It was a bit more sour and salty than I would have liked. The empanadas were also served on a bed of lettuce. It didn’t make much sense to me. Why would I want lettuce along with a cheesy and not-too-spicy empanada, I asked myself? But oh well.

The main course was good. I got the “verdecito” on the house specialties menu. It was appropriately spicy; the fish was relatively inoffensive, probably because it came with more sauce again. The avocado slices were a nice moderating touch. The portion was pretty good too – had I not spent all my efforts on the chips I would not have boxed half the plate for today’s consumption.

The best part of all this was the spiked horchata that I got. It was really tasty, and well thought out. I felt like I was drinking a boozy shake that I’d get in one of the Madison establishments – that is, it made a great apertif, a great “food” item, and a great dessert. I think I’d visit Guadalajara again just for the spiked horchata if nothing else.

Now on to the “meta” parts of the meal –

There were plenty of things about the ambiance that left something to be desired. The biggest offender was the lighting. There were a few things wrong with it:

1. The mix and match – I was seated at the NE edge of the establishment along Dallas St. The three 2-seater tables had white fluorescent lights above them, whereas the rest of the establishment had more soft-white lighting. Now I am a fan of white FL at home, but it seems rather out of place at a $30-per-meal establishment in the center of town. I’d have preferred more unity here.

2. The strobe effects – All the white FLs along the NE edge that I described above had some kind of weird flickering going on. I talked to the waiter about it, and he said that they had tried to fix it, but didn’t know what was up. It didn’t drive me completely bonkers, but it did force me to look towards other sources of light for more stability. The constant oscillatory behavior detracted from the experience. A lot.

3. Country meets Mex? – The music was all over the place. There was some country, some pop, some Mexican-genres-which-I-cannot-differentiate yet. It was also a little louder than it should have been.

4. Service was not the greatest – I mean, it wasn’t awful. But it left a lot to be desired. I ordered the empanadas, and was asked if I wanted them before the main dish. I got the empanadas a solid 3 minutes before being served the main course, which meant that I was wolfing down the second empanada. Some folks sitting at a neighboring table got food that was a little different from what they had actually ordered, but the waiter who attempted to reconcile it did a poor job of it. Just left a lot to be desired, I think.

Overall, a 3.7 makes sense I think. Decent, but not much to bring me back again, the spiked horchata notwithstanding.

Happy New Year!