208 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023
(212) 874-2929

Sparkles and I hadn't hung out in quite some time. With the tail end of summer coming and the days of being able to eat outside dwindling away, we decided to play catch up near her place on the Upper West Side at El Mitote, a new "taqueria and cantina" that set up shop on 70th Street. Tacos, tequila... has a better sit-in -a-hot-sunset meal been invented? Short answer: no. 

Cantinas are their most fun when they're at their seediest and most original. When they try to get all fancy or try to turn themselves into a spring break hangout, they usually fall into the deep, dank, irrelevant sea of mediocrity. El Mitote did not do either, but it did hit a third, equally tiring speed bump on the road to me recommending a place. With plastic trays, plastic forks, and disposable plates, they turned the cantina into a fast food place that serves beer. 

Price-wise, El Mitote is not technically expensive as long as you don't order alcohol. Sure, that seems like an easy way to avoid a large bill, BUT except for water they only serve alcohol. No soda, no iced tea. We arrived at happy hour and the beer and sangrias were just as expensive as if we had gone to a non-happy hour bar elsewhere. I asked for a glass of tequila (two shots over ice) and was told that it would cost $24. Needless to say, I didn't order the tequila.

We ordered a range of things from the menu and the prices range of that range ranged from $6.50 to $13.  So like I said, it could be a cheap meal (bring a flask). 

The absolute best thing I tried was the Pozole, a chicken soup with lettuce, radish, onion, oregano, lime, and hot sauce should you choose to add it in. It was light but delicious. I could have probably had four of them. With the hot sauce for a little added kick, it made for a great beginning. We also ordered the Chiles Toreados, a build-your-own-quasi-taco with caramelized onion, jalapeno pepper, and cheese. Sparkles wasn't feeling it, but I kinda was. It wasn't exactly the most complicated dish one could come up with, but I liked how it actually had some spice to it. I love hot and if it made my nose run, it'll make yours run too.

Mexican food is just slightly better than Southern food in terms of slowly killing you. At least it has vegetables that haven't been deep fried or soaked in cheese. But that doesn't mean that guacamole and tortillas are good for you. Still, after a lettuce soup, my continued attempt to eat healthily at a Mexican place led me to the Mitotera, a salad with romaine and arugula lettuce, cucumber, avocado, tomato, onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberry. Essentially, this is something you've probably ordered at Pax. Hell, it even came in the clear plastic disposable container. There was a dill dressing on the side which I did not pour on top. It couldn't have had less flavor if it tried, so I figured that it was empty calories. Also I got the chicken for an extra five bucks and figured that it wouldn't work well together. There isn't much point describing this dish save to say that if you've ever had a salad at lunch and asked for chicken as a protein then you've already eaten it. And as for whether it's worth $13, well, I'm sure that you can imagine what I personally think.

Sparkles started with the Barbacoa Tacos, three soft shell lamb with onion and parsley tacos. We both had no complaints. They were tacos. Better than Taco Bell; worse than taco truck near my apartment. But if I ever found myself here again, I'd order it. Sparkles did not feel the same way about her Chicken Tostada, and left over half of it on the plate. This is understandable. The dish was buried under lettuce and sour cream. Other than a bit of fried taco shell and the rare taste of the chicken that was hidden in there somewhere, it was like eating straight from a Breakstone's container. Don't get me wrong. I've done that. I'll do it again. But I wouldn't call it dinner. 

We ended up spending about $35 per person with two drinks each here and that's too much for what we got. El Mitote would probably be raking in the dinero if it was a beachside cantina with fifty outdoor tables, but of course that's an unrealistic expectation. I mean, if it was on a beach, then it would have been too inconvenient to get to on a Tuesday evening. Still, a staff that included more than one overworked waitress, and a better and or at least cheaper menu is doable. When things cost half as much, people tend to eat twice as much and drink three times as much. But here, the drinks weren't cheap and the food wasn't great. In conclusion, meh.

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