Picante in Berkeley--who cares?
I went to a Christmas party where they served butternut squash tamales which seemed pretty good, so I finally went to Picante after living in the neighborhood for 2 years.
What a huge disappointment. We had the ceviche which was too sweet and was filled with a thick tomato sauce and was unlike anything you'd expect to be served in a real Mexican restaurant let alone Mexico.
And the pork tamales were pretty dull and filled with a minuscule quantity of pork much less than the quantity of pork you'd find in the cheap 12 for $10 kind you get in Oakland, and not nearly so tasty as those.
And we had the enchiladas en mole. which was white flavorless chicken breast folded into a raw tortilla and liberally drowned in a too sweet and cinnamony mole.
The beans and the salsas were pretty good.
And just as everybody says, It's cheap and you CAN take the kids there.
For myself, I'm going to try every joint in Fruitvale before I go back for that stuff.
I have to agree. I'd heard great things about it, so I tried it a few times. Never had an outstanding meal, and I don't even remember having one that I'd categorize as "Yeah, it was decent." Couldn't even tell you what I had there -- it was that unmemorable. No reason to go back.
I don't go there very often, but if I do, I only order the butternut squash tamales or the tostada salad. I received a $10 coupon from them in the mail a few months ago and I'm trying to make myself use it before it expires.
I've been going there for years and years, as it's something of a favorite with the office gang, but I definitely lean more towards your sentiments, albeit not quite as harshly.
That said, I almost always get the manchamanteles tostada, and always enjoy it; occasionally I get the skirt steak carne asada. Jamaica agua fresca is always solid.
In the past I have enjoyed the Sopa Azteca. (I did try many things before settling on manchamanteles). Most everything else I've tried, including the chips, salsa and guacamole are too bland and Anglicized (not that there's anything wrong with that, inherently) for me to really enjoy, but when I want Mexican for myself, I crave the strong flavors you get off some taco trucks and in the Fruitvale.
What you say is pretty much it. Convenient, good for kids, bland but I don't think it's that cheap. Picante uses quality ingredients but it lacks soul or depth. Dona Tomas suffers from the same fate - quality ingredients, care in prep...but it's lacking in something.
Best of: Chicken burrito with extra rajas and cream - plenty of hot salsa.
Low tacquerias and taco trucks aren't sourcing their pork as carefully. Bean cookery is good here. Can be solid. Sometimes temps are off. Crawling with kiddies.
Tacubaya - gets a lot of flack on this board - has some outstanding guacamole and is always subtle and delicious. Their portion/price is related to the high rent, but what the hey?