It take a special kind of restaurant
to get me to eat in the Marina and, additionally, to get me to return. And, baby, you better believe that Mamacita
fits that bill.
We were scheduled to go to Mamacita a few weeks ago. The reservation was late, and we were hungry, so we popped into the bar at A16 for some TLC instead. We cancelled with Mamacita (you really need to do that, or you're just a jackass) and rescheduled for my night off from rehearsal
during the following week, at a more reasonable time.
Mamacita is located in the space that Cafe Marimba used to occupy. Back in the day, we used to love Cafe Marimba. Then, in a span of a few short months, it turned to shit. So we were psyched to see that not only was another Mexican restaurant opening in the space, but that the kitchen would be headed by Sam Josi, a Slanted Door
I have to admit that when we walked in, we were skeptical. The space has been adapted beautifully, but it's noisier than your mom at a Motel 6. I'm not normally fussy about noise (case in point -- have I ever mentioned it before?), but this was pretty excessive. Top that off with a twelve deep crowd of Marina singles stinking of desperation perched at the bar and my fight-or-flight mechanism kicked in. But the staff was so genial and super awesome that we fought the urge to flee. I couldn't be more glad that we did.
First a word about the staff. How the hell these people manage to be so freaking nice when surrounded by the Devil's rejects, I'll never know. But they are. The hostess and the GM's/co-owners were straight out of a dream. Friendly, sweet, and knowledgeable, they are everything the front of house should be. Not to mention the fact that they spent a good part of the night playing runners and checking in with tables. I love to see it when the folks in the front continue to care about you after you've planted your ass.
And our server. My God, this woman was delightful. She was *so* nice, and gave us such good suggestions that I almost asked for her phone number. Servers do not have easy jobs. They deal with a lot of shit all day and/or all night. To do that a) in the Marina and b) among a shitload of noise deserves a freakin' nobel peace prize. She rocked our world.
Jon ordered the Patron margarita even though it had the same ingredients as the ones he makes at home (Patron silver, citronage, fresh lime juice) and I went with the pomegranate margarita (pomegranate TEQUILA...mmmmmm....tequila). They were both complete perfection and I managed to suck two of them down in about forty-seven seconds. If you are not a margarita person you are a freak of nature, but they have a well stocked bar for you anyway.
OK -- food. Sit down Mexican food is hard to find. *Good* sit down Mexican food is even harder to find. Once you have found her, though, never let her go.
We started with fresh guacamole made with red jalepenos and cotija cheese. This was fresh and delicious and was served with some pretty scrumptious fresh tortilla chips. I'm a sucker for Jon's guacamole, and his is my very favorite (chunky and spicy), but Mamacita's isn't to shabby either. I think on a return visit that I'd ask the kitchen to toss in some more chilies for me, but otherwise, it's great.
Next we had the tortilla soup. Isn't soup the best? This tortilla soup was incredible. Once we figured out how to use the freakishly large silverware (seriously, this silverware was made for sasquatches), we devoured this. I don't know how to best describe how the spicy broth, tortilla strips, chunks of avocado and wisps of cheese interplayed on my tongue, but let's just say that the next table was mighty intrigued by my reaction to it.
We moved on to the albondigas over cumin mashed potatoes (this was an appetizer). Jon was mostly responsible for these because at this point, we were realizing that, as usual, we had ordered too much food. The mashed potatoes were smoky and silky, while the meatballs showed up with a nice spice. We took 1/2 home so we'd at least have room to try our tacos.
The description says you get three tacos, so we each ordered tacos as our entrees. Way too much food for us, so we took one of each of these home as well. But I must say that this was one of those situations where I actually wanted to pull a Lindsay Lohan
just so I could eat more. Because these tacos are fucking good.
Let's start with the carnitas. I actually cried when I heard that Jon ate the remaining taco without me the following evening. Hominy, avocado, chile de arbol -- you really can't go wrong there. I couldn't believe how tender and flavorful the pork was. This may have been my favorite thing all night.
The Huachinango borracho tacos just about made me recant that statement. Cornmeal beer battered snapper with cabbage and mango salsa. Oh, baby, give it to me like THAT! This was not greasy at all and the fish flaked really nicely. A+++++++.
The heirloom beans were very good, but unfortunately paled in comparison to the incredible corn with garlic, scallions and red mole that landed on our table. I think Jon started actually using his fists to shove it in his mouth. It reminded us of a Mexican take on one of our all time favorite dishes at Slanted Door (corn with minced pork or mushrooms). The corn was so sweet (where the hell they found it this time of year I'll never know), and the mole was the perfect foil. This was an impeccable dish.
We were too full to sample the incredible sounding desserts (and, really, it's tough to resist a churro), so we vowed to return with lots and lots of people so we could order EVERYTHING (please sign up in the comments section for this adventure).
If you go, make a reservation. We had no trouble getting a table when we wanted one on a few days notice. They seem to have a heavy walk in business because of the wicked bar. Or just go early. I'm also told that lunch and brunch are going to start up soon. I will get on my knees and thank the good Lord when that day comes.
Get your asses over there, lovies. Your Mama is waiting for you.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld