182 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 463-9511

As a rule of thumb, trendy restaurants are a triumph of style over substance. So much attention goes into choosing paint, where to place the track lighting and what mix tape to play, that somewhere along the line, the concept of serving food gets lost. Rocking Horse Café begs to be an exception to this rule but, in my experience, hasn't quite gotten that far.

Rocking Horse is one of Speeds’ favorite places to eat. She loves it. She’s had just about everything on the menu and is one step away from knowing the staff by name. Hot guys are a staple at Rocking Horse. And since these guys are, more often than not, gay, Speeds and her girlfriends come here all the time for eye candy that won't hit on them.

She and I came here for a few small meals over the course of a few months.

Rocking Horse, as I said, is trendy. Remixed dance music plays loudly inside the dark dining room and waiters wearing the requisite all black uniform serve interesting drinks in advance of their serving artfully prepared Mexican food. My drink of choice, a tequila on the rocks with lime, no salt, and Speeds' drink of choice a Margarita, lots of salt, often kept us comfy while we waited for a table. The club atmosphere isn't for everyone, but it's not too bad here. The closer to the back you are, the louder it gets. Sit outside for the ability to have a conversation free from "What? Say that again!"

Like most Mexican restaurants, every table gets chips and salsa instead of bread. Guacamole is a requisite, and like at most Mexican restaurants, while the guacamole is tasty, it's small and overpriced.

Since this review is so admittedly half-assed, I won't delve into a meal by meal breakdown. Instead, I'll just talk about each dish eaten that I have notes of.

The picture above is the Quesadillas de Hongos, a wild mushroom and cheese quesadilla with tart apples. These were good. Very good. I recommend this very much. Much better than the average Rocking Horse appetizer. Harsh, but my opinion is what it is. Below, you see the Crepas de Pato, locally farmed duck in a blue corn crepe with barbecue sauce and corn. I like duck a lot and find myself always trying the duck item on a menu. In this case, the barbecue sauce was too sharp and overwhelming and the duck was too dry. You almost need a glass of water to wash everything down with. Skip it.

Pictured above is one of Speeds' favorites, the Tamal de Camarones, a steamed corn dumpling with shrimp and avocado. My opinion is that it's not bad but not great. She can't get enough of it, probably ordering it half of the times I ate here with her. I found it somewhat bland. During one recent trip, Mr. Dogz ordered the Chile Relleno de Hongos, roasted mushrooms in a roasted poblano pepper under a chile cream sauce. I did not try this specific dish, but Mr. Dogz was left feeling a wee bit let down. He was hoping for something with bite, but instead opined that that this must have being one of the most timid poblanos he'd ever had. Finally, the Steak Burrito shown below (medium rare) and served with a little side of rice and refried beans (and scallion). This is the most recent dish that I ate here at Rocking Horse. I want to give it an A, but unfortunately, it gets a B+. The steak, great. The Monterrey Jack cheese, perfect. The real problem was too much avocado. It practically pushed all of the other flavors out the door and down the block. If you get it, ask for half the avocado.

This isn't to say that I haven't had other dishes here. I've had plenty. Like a skirt steak entree and a chicken dish. But I don't recall being terribly impressed and don't have my notes to back that opinion up. Some have since gone off the menu, making it pointless to talk about them (except to say that they should not have removed their empañada appetizer. I liked that a lot.), or were specials you probably couldn't order anyway.

I don't want anyone thinking that Rocking Horse is bad, per se. It's considerably better in virtually every respect (other than not having live music) than SoHo's restaurant/salsa club Gonzalez y Gonzalez (blecch). Anyway, I've read Rocking Horse's reviews in places like New York Magazine and Time Out, and frankly, could care less that they use organic or local produce. It doesn't mean very much if I'm never wowed here and I never find myself itching to return, unless it's to sit outside in the warm waether (with that mojito you saw). The artsy flair, while appreciated, often isn't translating into increased taste.

Side note, I forgot to mention the service, which I thought was very good. Attentive waiters, and friendly smiles on everyone from the managers on down are very appreciated and certainly add to the general good-feeling I get while eating here. I don't think anyone can argue that this isn't a friendly place to be.

Figure on spending at least $40 for a drink, appetizer, entree, tax and tip per person.

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