259 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10282
(212) 233-2500

Just across the street from the World Trade Center, at Battery Park City's border with the Financial District rests El Vez, New York City's latest addition from the Stephen Starr restaurant empire, joining Buddakan and Morimoto to name the two most famous of the half dozen restaurants he has here. El Vez is trendy Mexican, putting it squarely in competition with the ever-popular Dos Caminos and Rosa Mexicano. If my trip here is any indication, Mr. Starr won't be having too much trouble paying rent. That having been said, I will probably continue to give my own rent money to the other two. El Vez might be a hot little number, but it could still use a boob-job in the food department.

Speeds showed up characteristically late, so I had plenty of time to stand aimlessly in the front bar area and people watch. When that got boring, I had plenty of time to wait for a seat at the bar to open, wait for the bartender finish paying attention to the hotties for long enough to realize that I was  drinkless, drink half of that beer, and read the news on my phone. Greece is in the shits. 

The El Vez demographic was, when I walked in, predominantly young. There were a few tourists thrown in (you can spot them a mile away) and a family or two, but on the whole it was young and moneyed. Hipsters with mixologist mustaches, arm candy sorority girls, finance guys, girls night outers (they're the ones singing happy birthday to dear Jenny), and some more finance guys. Clearly, El Vez is attracting people who work in the area, date people who work in the area, or who have come to see the 9/11 Memorial. Either way, the place was packed. There's a huge amount of outdoor seating and it was pretty much all gone when finally Speeds arrived.

There was no debate or hesitation about ordering the Classic Guacamole. Avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, jalapeno. All allegedly. We didn't see them make it. And it was pretty bland. I didn't taste any onion or jalapeno. It was like squished avocado in a bowl. I literally asked for extra limes so I could squeeze a few of them into the guac. Alongside the chips came a little cup of salsa. Again, to call this timid would be to render the word meaningless. I asked our waiter for some hot salsa. He looked at me like I was insane. "It's really hot," he warned. "Good," I said. "I want it to strip paint." What I failed to mention was that I wanted it to strip paint and taste good. Instead, yeah, it was hot, but it was water thin. That's not salsa, that's hot sauce in a cup. Tortilla Soup. I love a good tortilla soup. Thick and rich and sweet and savory all at one time. I don't remember the last time I saw tortilla soup on a menu and I knew I needed to try it. Speeds could not have been less interested. "Well up yours, I'm getting it anyway". And I did. And let me tell you, it is hot. Not spicy. I mean boiling. Like I took a sip and immediately dove my face into the remaining ice of my drink. After I let it cool down for twenty minutes or so, it was quite delicious. In her ever continuous attempt to stay healthy and keep death a few steps behind her, Speeds suggested a Kale Salad with an agave vinaigrette, peanuts, and cotija cheese. I agreed. It was a good salad without being groundbreaking and we ate the lot of it.

If someone from LA or San Diego started talking about bagels, I'd laugh at them, so when I say that I like fish tacos, I know I don't have a leg to stand on. Still, I do like fish tacos, and I made damn sure to order the Crispy Mahi Mahi Tacos in a flour tortilla with red cabbage and avocado. They were very good. They really were. Lots of taste. Lots of crunch. Nothing to complain about at all. Speeds went with the Tacos Al Pastor, achiote-marinated pork, roasted pineapple, and salsa verde. I liked them. I didn't love them but I liked them. The tacos had nice, sweet bursts of flavor and were a good contrast to the otherwise bitter cocktail I'd ordered. Speeds was less enthusiastic. One bite landed her a bone, which I didn't think tacos had, and another landed her a rather good sized chunk of pure fat. I know because I saw her spit it out onto her plate."I just can't swallow it," she said.

Churros. Who doesn't love them? When we saw churros as a dessert, we knew it was churro time. Speeds asked if they came with a caramel dipping sauce because, apparently, she was under the impression that they're supposed to come with caramel. The waiter said no. Sorry, just chocolate. And so, with a heavy heart, Speeds nodded. Yes, give me a churro with but chocolate. Was it good you ask? Yes. Of course it was good. Was it old-hispanic-lady-selling-churros-out-of-a-shopping-cart-on-the-E-train-platform good? No. Still good though. You'll like them.

So we coughed up about $155 on this meal. A couple of beers, a couple of cocktails, some apps, and two taco plates. Like I said in the first paragraph way up north, El Vez is working its way into Dos Caminos territory. But Dos Caminos is still edging it out. The food was too hit or miss, and none of the hits were home runs. Is El Vez sexy? Yes, in a sexy-TGI Fridays sort of way. The mariachi music and the Texaco gas signs on the wall, plus various Robert Rodriguezian slum-cantina murals lend an atmosphere of kitch that I could have done without. You can take someone here and you'll feel cool. But the others do that too, but with a bit more class and higher-end comida.

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