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Mar 30, 2012 06:04 PM

Should I give the Painted Burro a second chance?

When I visited last week, the service was chilly, my margarita was so potent that I could have been arrested for DUI after one sip, and my food was bland, bland, bland. I was unimpressed to say the least - best thing about the meal was the nice long sturdy chips.

Hounds, should I give it another chance? Maybe I'm bitter because I loved Gargoyles so.

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  1. The place just opened so I'd suggest giving it a couple of months before a re-try. To be bitter because it tookover the spot of your local fav is unfair considering they had nothing To do with the closure of Gargoyles.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Unfoodie

      I agree with everything Unfoodie said...

      1. re: Unfoodie

        I went last night for some late night tacos and drinks and was very pleased. The guacamole with roasted poblanos was outstanding, as were the chips that came with them. I got the lamb neck tacos (tasty) and washed it down with a Sierra Madre (tequila, passion fruit, jalapeno). I'm also pretty sensitive to overly sweetened drinks, and had no problem with this one. Others at my table enjoyed their fish tacos and steak tacos.
        It was on the later side and things had calmed down, but the service was quite good. The rest of the menu looked great and I'll definitely be back to explore it.

      2. I liked Gargoyles, too, but I try not to hold love of a predecessor against a successor. I had a very good first impression of the Painted Burro, am looking forward to trying it again. I'd be curious if others share my skepticism about the tortillas being made in-house, but that's a quibble. Quite liked the fish taco and the lamb neck taco, the "chignon" salad (mildly pickled fruits and veggies), too.

        The house Margarita made a very favorable impression on me, but it's better in the rocks/salt version than the up/no, seems balanced for the former. Service a bit ragged, but it is the shakedown cruise, after all.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I was very happy with my Painted Burro experience and intend to go back soon. Great meal [veggie tacos and veggie enchiladas split with a veggie friend] and margarita [rocks/salt].... my only quibble is that I would have loved some borracho or charo beans with my tacos, even if I had to get them separately, and saw online that they had "house pickles" and hoped for escabeche, but they were gone from the menu in person.

          I would also question the in-house tortillas.... maybe the ones they fried for chips, but the ones they served with the tacos clearly had the stamped marks from a tortilla pressing machine and I've never known a restaurant that is not also a tortillaria to have one in-house. Personally, I'd rather have fresh tortillas for my tacos and store-bought chips, but maybe they couldn't keep up with demand when making them to order. [There's a reason the good restaurants back home in Texas employ abuelita-types to do nothing but make tortillas during service. Those women have teflon fingers.]

          1. re: collinsgavornik

            I should mention I'm pretty anti-sweetener in my margaritas and got mine without the agave nectar... I tried my friends and it wasn't cloying at all, but I preferred mine without it.

          2. re: MC Slim JB

            How common is it for the "shakedown" period to actually affect the food?

            I understand the initial week or two having a rushed kitchen due to crowds, and that having some affect on the food to some level; I can definitely understand the service can get better in the first few months as staff settles in and poor hire decisions get vetted; I'm just unconvinced from my experience and readings, that the food will drastically improve from the first visit. I've yet to see first hand, or hear of, a restaurant going from bad the first month to great afterwards, at best it seems from bad to "meh", or "meh" to "a good deal", or the establishment will start at "good" to "great" and perhaps move a bit up from there (as it sounds could be the case here, starting on the "good" side).

            I'm just unconvinced that many kitchens ever make a big leap in this period that this should be how we look at it. Not that I'm against the idea of a second try, but more because for a "meh" to "good" place it can many times be explained more by selected menu choice than overall quality (ie, their "A" is great, but their "B" is "meh").

            probably best for another thread...

            Anyway, I hated Gargoyles, and I love me some Mexican food, so I'm hoping this place turns out decent enough Mexican (ah Boston, the mecca for "meh" Mexican...), I'm just more and more unconvinced about the whole wait-out period concept for a kitchen as I pay more attention.

            Also, as for margaritas, my experience is, everyone likes them different, and so you're happiness with a specific location will depend more on personal taste than whether the locations make them "bad" or too strong/sweet/etc. It seems the only ones people tend to agree on are the places that don't make them exciting or unique in any way so everyone is just happy enough. Being a tequila guy, I'd just like a good one slightly chilled...

            1. re: Nechushtan

              There are definitely cases where an unfocused kitchen settles down either through exercising the motto "less is more" (citywide crowds go away and something becomes a consistent neighborhood option), getting into the rhythm of service (Journeyman certainly hasn't scaled back and seems much more consistent), or revamping the menu itself to a new concept (I think this is less common). A chef that served as a consultant comes back on a more intense basis (a few limited examples of this). Certainly there are more cases of putting lipstick on a pig and eventually the restaurant goes away (many examples in the North End), but restaurants do turn it around.

              In ethnic dining I think the reverse can sometimes happen. A lot of Brazilian restaurants open up and try to differentiate themselves on variety/quality as well as offering low prices, but realize their bread and butter is fixed price takeout for workers... and reduce the quality. Sometimes a chef moves on too.

              1. re: Nechushtan

                Yeah, this is maybe a Not About Food sub-thread. I've seen enough shakedown cruises that overcome early jitters to believe the issue is not only real, but recoverable.

                In a lot of cases, I think synchronization between front and back of house is the biggest problem; poor expediting means a lot of food that should be hot gets served lukewarm, and that's especially a problem for a taqueria. I've seen a bunch of places start out with ambitious concepts that the neighborhood isn't ready for; they end up scaling back to something more modest that turns out to be better anyway.

                In others, I've seen very ambitious execution from chef/owners in their first place of their own, where their reach exceeds their grasp at first; eventually they get better at conceiving and executing at this level, but it takes time. In still others, it's about executing at a very large scale and serving a variety of audiences, like a big new hotel restaurant, and that's not easy if the kitchen staff isn't led by a veteran familiar with high-volume operations.

                Plenty of places that eventually turn out to be excellent haven't fine-tuned their concept initially: a bad or overpriced wine list, or a cocktail list that aims too young for the locals, are common early missteps. I've also seen places where the opening chef and ownership aren't quite in sync and never gel: the replacement chef (or even the second sub) is the one who finally gets it right.

                It's obviously better to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, but just local anecdotal evidence suggests how hard that is. The good news is that I've seen plenty that sputter early on but eventually get humming.


            2. as wise unfoodie has counselled, Wait thee a few months. As our dinner wasn't so great ,we shall waiteth as well.

              1. How do you prefer your margaritas? Was it improperly mixed? Margaritas are quite potent if properly made.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gabatta

                  Oh, I was being cheeky about Gargoyles bitterness. I'm happy an upscale Mexican restaurant has landed in the spot. But I really didn't like my meal. I found the service frosty and muddled ... sadly the same can't be said for my margarita. I'm a fan of potent beverages, but this was poorly mixed. Very little kick, very little lime, basically a mug of tequila with an ice cube floating in it!
                  Agree with Slim about the lamb neck taco -- it had promise -- but I certainly didn't come away feeling excited to go back.

                2. This is exactly why I don't go to restaurants right when they open, I like to give a place a few months to iron out the wrinkles before basing judgement on them. Frankly, restaurants are usually so messed up in the opening weeks, that I don't want to have a poor opinion of them based on this (leaving a bad taste in my mouth...), so I wait. I wish people wouldn't review restaurants that just opened....hell, look at the Yelp reviews of Grass Fed, people are complaining about the wait...come on, you are just perpetuating the problem by going to a super-hyped, newly opened restaurant. It isn't the restaurants fault....