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Miguel's Cocina y Cantina: no es bueno

d
drunk_again Mar 22, 2010 10:30 AM

My wife and I took my parents to Miguel's Sunday for dinner in Silo Point. This was our first time there, we live in Hampden so it's not exactly right down the street, but after last nights experience, we don't think we'll be returning regardless.

The Bland Experience:
We were looking forward to a feast of authentic Mexican food and to wash it down with some fresh margaritas. When we arrived around 6pm, the space is nice but definitely has that industrial feel. We waited in the foyer patiently for a couple of minutes to be seated, which set the tone for the evening. There was no hostess, and when the bartender was free, he came over and seated us. There was a couple of tables already seated, but it wasn't busy.

We were given a drink menu and a dinner menu, both were filled with a tremendous array of options, and yes, we had a few questions to ask to assist us in ordering, but those questions remained unasked. There seemed to be only one server taking care of the dining room, and he was inadequate for the job. He was a nice enough kid, just too weeded to perform his job to the best of his abilities. The owner, who was in the kitchen, should've had another server on the floor with him, or at least a manager who could help out.

We started off with a round of margaritas. After a long, long wait, they finally came. I got the Tamarind Margarita, which was good, nice balance of sweet and sour, but nothing really extraordinary, and one will do, I couldn't drink anymore of these. We started off with their freshly made guacamole and a queso fundido (cheese fondue). We also ordered two different empanadas to start with as well: the carne asado (grilled skirt steak) and the picodillo (diced beef & pork).

It took a long, long time for anything to come out, but when it did, it all came out at once. All 4 of the items came to the table, as well as chips & dip, and we had to do our best to maneuver the plates to fit on the table. These are the type of plates that are the size of the table but only have a few things on them. Hard to eat when there is no room. Anyway, the guacomole was underwhelming for $12. The cheese fondue was just melted cheese, literally melted cheese.

The empanadas tasted like they were 2 days old, who knows, maybe they were made Friday and given to us on Sunday. Two Oily, hard shells swimming in a mole sauce that had a julienne salad of jicama and carrots and pumpkin seeds layered on top. The salad component was great. I couldn't decipher which empanada was which, they both tasted vaguely similar: Lacking seasoning, lacking taste.

We had to ask the server to remove the empty plates or they probably would've stayed on the table for the duration. I asked for a draft of Dos Equis, it only came after my wife reminded the server twenty minutes later. The service was definitely lacking.

Now, I ordered the Carnitas Juvencio (12-hr slow roasted pork chunks that was marinated in coca-cola with refried beans and tortilla shells) and I was very disappointed. The hard cubes of pork were not very tender, overcooked (which is weird because it's supposed to be slow cooked), and very, very bland. In fact, all of the food coming out of the kitchen needed seasoning. I barely touched my entree after a couple of bites and asked for a to-go container.

My wife and my mother both got tacos, 3 flour tortilla tacos per order, drizzled with salsa verde and mole sauce that was very watery. More bland, season-less meat that the sauce tried to mask ineffectively. The pollo tasted like rubbery Sisco chicken with no seasoning.

Dinner came to about $120 and for 4 people, that's not bad $30 a person I guess is about average, but we could've went to Fells and found something around Broadway for a lot cheaper and a lot more authentic and satisfying. I've never been impressed with the owner's, Michael Marx, establishments. Blue Agave and Rub were always over-hyped and more flash than substance. He is always harping about the real authentic cuisine he's bringing to Baltimore, when he should be focusing on the basics: food with flavor, adequate service, etc.

Why is it so hard to find a good Mexican restaurant in Baltimore?

Anyway, we finished the night back in Fells, where we got amazing gelato at Pitango. Good stuff and the highlight of the evening.

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Blue Agave Restaurant
1032 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

Hampden Cafe
4800 Hampden Ln Ste 103, Bethesda, MD 20814

  1. tatmaker Jul 3, 2010 02:38 PM

    Wow, I am surprised at the beating that Miguel's has taken on here. I have been there several times since they opened for brunch and dinner, and have always been satisfied.
    Service has been fine all but maybe 2 times that they were really busy, and the only problem then was slowness, but we were having a good time with friends and not in a huge hurry.
    Margaritas have been very good, i like the tamarindo and the el jefe; but my favorite drink has been the sangria, seen at the ends if the bar in big glass containers.
    The smoked salsa that comes with the chips is really good, the verde is o.k.
    The carnitas juvenico tacos al pastor, tacos de toluca, jongos flautas, carne asada empanadas, and tortilla soup have been my favorites so far for dinner.
    The brunch has been really good to. I really have liked the Torta de Longaniza, Ibarra Masa pancakes, and the Chilaquiles Rojos have been my favorites. My wife really likes the Huitlacoche omelette.
    I don't know, either the negative reviewers had bad timing or they like throwing around terms like 'sisco chicken'; but I dine out in the city at least twice a week, and Miguel's ranks among my favorites, and that is including establishments charging twice as much.

    1. t
      tinyterp Jun 24, 2010 09:59 AM

      Miguels Cocina y Cantina - Bueno, bueno!!!

      We could not of had a better experience! In fact, we were so impressed that we used Michael and his team to cater a Big Law Summer Associate party for us and EVERYONE was impressed ... loved the food, loved the drink, loved the chef! Michael was very responsive, created a fantastic menu, came to our apt complex a week early to check it out, and early the day of, and had a great set-up. He interacted with all of our guests, and was as professional as could be.

      Our first experience at the restaurant was super - it was a weekend night, and we opted out of our table to sit at the bar ... our bartender was AWESOME and attentive - he knew it was our 1st time so we trusted him and let him order for us. Everything came out hot, quick and tasted fantastic and full of flavor. Our meal included guac, 2 empanadas and two tacos (small plates). We also sampled a number of margs, my favorite being the prickly pear. In fact, he let me sample a full pom marg at no charge! The icing on the cake were the churros at the end of the meal! Our entire meal came to just over $50 for the 2 of us, which is 1/2 the cost of Blue Agave. We were floored!

      Cant wait to go back this Friday!

      2 Replies
      1. re: tinyterp
        n
        nyawira Jun 24, 2010 11:41 AM

        I kind of agree. I'm a little suprised that Miguel's is being slammed the way it has been on this board. I've been several times and each time the service was really good. The food is acceptable enough if you're in the mood for high end Mexican. I expecially love the taquitos, which they call flautas. I've sat at the bar and at a table. The night before last, I was there with a party of ten and the service was great. I had fish tacos and they were quite acceptable, although they used flour tortillas, where I prefer corn. I wouldn't call them incredible, but they were good enough. My husband had a pork dish and the pork was really VERY good, and flavorable with a hint of some exotic spice, I want to say cinammon. I've had the churros there and they are just as I remember them from Tijuana, although with much more sugar on them then what they do with the street food. I've had a number of dishes and they ranged from VERY good to VERY acceptable. My problem with the restaurant is the portion sizes for the main dishes. There is no way in hell I could eat that much food in a sitting and I object to such humongous portions on principal. We never order the main dishes, but many in my party did and they should all be ashamed of themselves for stuffing their stomachs so full. But all in all, it's a good restaurant for me and my husband to circuit ride to on our federal hill/locust point rounds.

        1. re: nyawira
          l
          Lunita Jul 1, 2010 03:07 PM

          well im not saying it is a BAD restaurant, i think they have worked hard in fix to place to surprise people with such a nice decoration, but still NOT MEXICAN FOOD at all. flavor probably is ok for those who have never had authentic . If you looking for authentic mexican food, this is not the place, if you looking for a nice tex-mex place to have good drinks with friends this is it.

      2. l
        Lunita Jun 22, 2010 01:08 PM

        ok, this is my first post , i need to say after i read your review drunk_again, i am very dissapointed with Miguel's too. My husband and I visited this place like a month ago, when we arrived staff looked at us and did nothing, a nice guy came after a few minutes to accomodate us.
        Place looks nice but it is not authentic, I had a margarita which was too sweet, i liked it but i couldn't taste any tequila in it, we ordered "queso fundido" and yep, melted cheesse, very dissapointing, at least they could microwave it one more minute to get all cheesse melted!
        then "salichicha empanadas" salchicha??? it is really chorizo, very salty...
        then i ordered the "chilpachole veracruz", our server said it was a small plate, small portion, so i asked to keep the menu to order something more after it. not true, i dont know if he said it because he wanted me to order more or what. but chilpachole was huge. so bad it has no taste at all. it was mostly like raw tomatoes in some hot uncooked stew. i couldn't eat so flavorless
        my husband had birria... well... i dont know what it was, it was ok but definitively not birria.
        then "churros con helado" they were ok, very sweet and crispy... SISCO churros :(
        if we go back sometime it will be because place is nice, i like the decoration, have some drinks at the bar but not eating anymore over there.

        1. d
          daivy May 21, 2010 08:16 AM

          My wife and I had a wonderful meal at Miquel's a couple of weeks ago. A great lamb dish and the best chicken enchiladas I've had. The service was fine. We want to go back again and try more things on their extensive menu.

          1. a
            a70wilson Mar 23, 2010 07:47 PM

            So odd. When we were there last month (February), we had a great experience, as did others who replied to the thread. I definitely think it is worth trying and wonder if they are still getting service kinks worked out.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6858...

            1. e
              edresner Mar 22, 2010 11:36 AM

              I sat out on their back patio for brunch yesterday and had a great experience. I'll admit they were probably understaffed, but I guess this was less noticeable on a Sunday early afternoon than in the evening. I thought the huevos rancheros were fantastic and were presented with two different sauces (a red and green) both of which were quite flavorful. Two highlights of the meal were the corn tortillas that were utilized in almost every dish we ordered and the roasted potatoes. The tortillas were very fresh and were just thick enough to absorb all of the sauces in each dish without being too filling and the potatoes were fantastic, very crisp and hot, clearly right out of the oven.

              We also tried two of the frozen margaritas, mango and pomegranate. Both were excellent, definitely enough tequila, but the taste wasn't overwhelming as it was balanced with the sweet and sour aspects of the fruit juices.

              It's not the most scenic view in the world, but definitely a nice outdoor setting for a late morning brunch. It's tough to find outdoor seating around Baltimore so I'm glad there will be another option as I often get tired of Regi's or Little Havana.

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