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Bad Experience at Tacos Matamoros

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My family went to Tacos Matamoros tonight. It was the second time we've eaten there and the second time we've had terrible service. The food is good (though tonight I'll admit it wasn't amazing) but I don't think we will return because the service is so bad. It's an authentic place, so it's understandable that there is a language barrier between us and the servers, as we don't speak Spanish. But I think they should have some understanding of what we are ordering, especially when we are pointing at it on the menu. But we get a lot of blank stares while ordering. They also forget to bring things we order, but keep them on the bill. Finally, they disappear and it's hard to get another drink or chips or additional order once your original order arrives. The worst part is, and I hate saying this but, they seem to give the latino customers much better service. This time the waitress dropped off our check before we asked for it and then disappeared. We had wanted two more margaritas so we waiting about ten minutes for her to come back to order them, but when she didn't come we gave up, put the money down and went to leave. As soon as we stood up, she ran over, as if she were worried we would split on the check. It was brazenly rude. The food is decent, but we won't be going back. Anywhere else in the neighborhood where the food is great and the service is better?

Tacos Matamoros
4508 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

Tacos Matamoros
5717 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

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  1. Ive been to matamoros over a dozen times in the last year and always had perfectly fine, if very casual service. Id venture to say that the servers english is significantly better here than at many of the other spots in the neighborhood. granted i speak pretty decent restaurant spanish but i dont recall ever having to really use it - its not like food product names here are dramatically different than any other mexican place, even one catering to a nearly all anglo clientele.

    you were upset about feeling ignored, but also upset when the waitress ran over out of (you presume) concern? which is it?

    i'll readily admit that there have been a couple times where we had to flag down a waitress, but its usually been easier to attribute this to the busy-ness of the place, the fact that there is nearly always a group of 16+ people (ive seen as many as 20 after church on sundays) and not to racism or a lack of professionalism, and certainly not to rudeness.

    Im not going to play the ad hominem game but maybe there is something going on here thats got little to nothing to do with the servers at matamoros. you say you dont speak spanish, but why is pointing to the menu required, last i checked its written in latin/roman script right? im all for pointing when i cant even try to sound out a menu, but i could see a server being put off by customers acting like they were eating in a martian restaurant in the middle of sunset park.

    I just wanted to make sure there were comments in this thread attesting to the perfectly adequate service available at matamoros (although i still prefer the pastor at el bronco). The ladies who work the floor bust their humps in a busy restaurant for pretty meager earnings (20% tips on 10 dollar cover averages isnt making anyone rich) and have been nothing but kind and outgoing, if occasionally harried, on our many very pleasant trips over the past couple years.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast

      I'll back up what you're saying about the service. We've been there about 8 times in the past year and always had good to very good service. We were last there on Friday night, one day before the OP visited. The service was fine.

      Overall I wouldn't call the service polished but it's well meaning and, at times, even friendly. At ethnic places I'll settle for efficient. Anything else is a bonus.

      The food has always been terrific. That pollo asado cemita is on my personal greatest hits list.

      PS - I don't think thew servers would find the pointing at menu items off putting. My pronunciation of menu items is pretty good but often they'll ask me to point at the menu to make sure they've got the order right. I consider that a sign of professionalism.

      1. re: Bob Martinez

        things like this happen - almost everywhere where the language is not english - sometimes. it may be a new server that gets freaked out, it may be that an interaction starts out with a negative and the server is scared off/avoids the party - figuring to cut their losses, you just cant be sure. We stopped patroniZing a place in Chinatown (since closed) where we had been happy eating before and where this sort of thing occured, not because the server was uncommunicative and had a negative attitude toward us but because the manager participated and put a service charge on our bill.

        In the end you just cant tell, the server may have had a bad day and just shut down with OP.
        I think pointing to the menu, especially with numbers is totally appropriate where patron and server dont share a language. Like Bob says, its often part of the normal interations.

        By the way, we have had good service at Matamoros the times we have been. Maybe someone who goes more frequently in that strip could recommend the best alternatives.

    2. I am not a big fan of the food of Matamoros, I prefer Xochimilco across the street; but your concern is service and there is no difference between Xochimilco and Matamoros. Both are cheap Mexican restaurants that employ mostly younger women who speak little english and work long hours for little money.

      I have had some confused service, but then again I am in place that earns its keep by selling two dollar tacos. I dont speak an ounce of Spanish, but I have never had rude service in well over ten years of going to these or similar places. I certainly have never felt like I get the short end of the stick because I aint latino.

      Perhaps its a difference in expectation. When I go to a cheap restaurant that serves an immigrant community I expect and actually enjoy the awkwardness of being the outsider. Its how I learn and its why I go to places like this.

      How long till someone complains about the service from the shaved ice guy or the taco truck.

      Tacos Xochimilco
      4501 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

      1 Reply
      1. I eat at Tacos Matamoras on a fairly regular basis. It's a casual place so the service is casual but we've always received quick and friendly service -- even when we were almost the only gringos in the room. As a gringo who has eaten there many times, I can't even relate to your perception that Latinos are treated better there. One of my favorite times to eat there is on Sunday evening when it is extremely full and busy with many local Mexican families.

        Often we are asked by the manager/host if we'd like something to drink before we even sit down and before our almost always busy waitress has had a chance to get over to us to take our order. We have also never had a problem getting second and third rounds of margaritas. They ask if we prefer them frozen or on the rocks. They bring us salsa verde and hot sauce when we request it. Even when extremely busy, they almost always check back with us a couple of times to see if we need or want anything else and to make sure everything is okay. They never rush us. They usually don't bring us the check until we ask for it. Not rushing people is part of Latin culture.

        We manage to communicate just fine with a combination of our broken Spanish and their broken English and some occasional pointing to the menu to clarify (which I don't think anyone minds). In all the time we've been going there, I think we only got a mistake dish once -- and that was a happy mistake that we were happy to eat -- shrimp tacos.

        As for the waitress hurrying over to your table when you got up to leave and you put money down, I'm floored that you perceived that to be them thinking you were going to walk out without paying. You just left cash on a table in the middle of a big busy room. While your waitress didn't want to rush you out of your table, I'm sure she also wanted to make sure she picked up the cash before anyone else in the room did. I don't usually get up and leave my bill and cash on the table unless it is very quiet and I'm sure the waitress sees that we're leaving, at which point I say gracias and buenos noches. Usually I wait to give it to the waitress and tell her that we don't need change.

        I'm really amazed that you found service at Matamoras to be "brazenly rude". That has not been my experience there at all.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kitchop

          What a great post. Detailed, balanced. Well done.

        2. We have had so so service there. Have definitely had to flag down the waitress, and have had items forgotten. I don't speak very good Spanish, but my father is a native speaker and his entree was the one left behind last time. By the time we got someone to the table to address it, the rest of us were almost finished. He refuses to go back because of the service problems; I honestly can't remember the rest of the issues from that last visit. So you aren't alone on the imperfect service, although at least in our case being Latino didn't spare us service errors. I think it just depends on what night you go and who your server is. I'll be back for the inexpensive and tasty food. We're always pleased to find a place where we both enjoy the food and feel comfortable bringing or young son. Sounds like Xochimilco is an alternative worth trying, although the service may not be much better.

          653 Melrose Ave, Bronx, NY 10455

          1. I'm sorry that you had that experience; it would have irritated me not to be able to get my server's attention to order something more. I like the place and have had good service and have never seen anything to suggest that Latino customers are treated better.

            We went on a miserably cold day this winter and, while the place was packed, the two of us were pulled away from a two-top by the door and shown to a four-top in the middle of the room. I thought that was sweet and more than thoughtful.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Deb Van D

              We went last night—our waitress spoke perfect English and we had fine service, even though it was crowded.

              While I am sure people can get terrible service there (like anywhere--and their waitresses do seem very young and perhaps inexperienced) I have certainly never felt targeted or treated differently as a non-spanishing speaking person.

              More important (to me, anyway) is that their food is good but not stellar and their margaritas are just so-so. I think it might be time for a taco crawl to determine just which place on 5th ave in the 40s serves the best ones.

            2. I think TM is vastly overrated.

              Being from San Francisco, I'm let's just say a wee bit picky when it comes to Mexican- but even allowing for the fact that it's a "New York"-Mexican place I find it pretty bad.

              Definitely better than most other places in Brooklyn- but still not good. The tacos aren't that great- most offerings are pretty dry and bland, if you ask me- and their burritos are just meh.

              Overall it's maybe o.k., but disappointing. Please tell me there's better out there...

              6 Replies
                1. re: JFores

                  All I get is tacos de tripa and tacos de cabeza. Neither has ever been dry or bland. Not sure you can get any better in NYC. I've had much better in Los Angeles, but for NYC I think they are great.

                  1. re: AubWah

                    their tripa tacos are good, but in general i don't find their food to be excellent. There's better in Queens and I can't help feeling that there must be better also right along 5th ave in sunset park.

                    On our way to matamoros, the taco truck a couple of blocks before it had a huge line. Anyone know if it's good? their spit of al pastor looked pretty enticing.

                    1. re: missmasala

                      Yes, the truck is excellent. It's Tacos El Bronco, the original truck location of the sit-down place tex.s.toast mentions. Both truck and restaurant are good, and I agree that the al pastor is great, the best I've had in the neighborhood. The chorizo and suadero are also great.

                      To get back to the original subject, I agree with the general response of subsequent posters. Never ever had rude service at Matamoros. It's sometimes slow and very occasionally there's been confusion due to a language barrier, but I've never felt mistreated for being a gringo. I would never call the place overrated, but maybe that's because I've always thought of it as reliably good rather than revelatory. I think most of the pork-related tacos at Matamoros are pretty good. Their guacamole is very tasty.

                      Your hunch that there is better (or at least comparable, depending on your take on Matamoros) in the neighborhood is correct, depending on what you're ordering. El Bronco (tacos) and Xochimilco (tortas) mentioned elsewhere in this thread are good places to start. Piaxtla es Mexico (tacos), La Flor (tortas), Speedy's (tamales), Don Paco Lopez (tamales) are some other good options that are gringo-friendly.

                      Piaxtla Es Mexico
                      505 51st St, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                      La Flor de Piaxtla
                      4202 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232

                      Don Paco Lopez
                      4703 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                      Tamales Tonchita
                      5919 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                      Tacos Xochimilco
                      4501 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                      Tacos El Bronco
                      4324 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                      Tacos El Bronco
                      5th Ave 43rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11232

                2. re: twan55

                  I think the burritos are just meh at most NYC mexican places because most of these restaurants are pueblan and pueblans are not burrito people. Or at least that's my understanding, but maybe someone with better knowledge can jump in.

                  The tacos at these places, however, can, should be, and sometimes are, very good.

                  1. re: twan55

                    "vastly overrated" is an overstatement, in my book. i also think its ironic that the enormous popularity of TM on this board is likely due to the friendly-to-gringos atmosphere which was questioned by the OP in this thread.

                    I am also from SF (the mission even) and i think having experiences outside SF has made me realize that being "a wee bit picky" about mexican food and knowing a lot about it are very different things - my tastes were most certainly shaped by being brought up on mission burritos, but just as I have come to expect very little from (most) pizza outside new york, i dont think you can really expect an sf style burrito even at very good (or even authentic) places outside northern california - this is born out by all those southern californians complaining about the presence of rice in our burritos.

                    like miss masala i got to TM for the tripas tacos, which are pretty awesome, and some of the plates like the costillas which are solid if not world shattering. also i like their cemitas although im learning to love papalo (slowly) and i dare you to find a decent place for one of those in SF. i like that when we go at off hours the chips are always hot out of the fryer and at busier times the turnover is so great they may have cooled off but are always within an hour of their birth.

                    in terms of better options in the 'hood, i think the al pastor at Tacos El Bronco (the sit-down place on 4th ave, never stopped at the truck on 5th) is comparable to my favorite in SF (Taq. San jose) if slightly less steeped in the red oily slick of deliciousness.

                    at this point we probably go to TM out of habit as much as anything else (and because its welcoming and easy) but i would welcome a chance to try out some of the other nearby options.

                    Im currently around the world for the next few weeks (but not so busy and missing mexican food so as to not participate in this thread) but would be VERY interested in a chowdown/taco crawl at some point later in July or August, though i would greatly appreciate Missmasala or someone taking the lead on organizing.

                    Tacos El Bronco
                    4324 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220