200 River Walk
(at St Mary's, across from La Mansión)
This was a perfect day for lunch on the River Walk. There were no good movies we hadn't already seen; it was sunny and 75 with a mild breeze; and the crush of tourists is still a few weeks away. We pawed through the listings to decide on a place for lunch, then decided to just go down to the River and see what looked good. Ended up here.
This place wasn't around when I worked downtown, so I wasn't familiar with it. It's located in the Mokhara Hotel building, which used to be the Watermark, which is the building famous for having its historical facade fall over in the street about 15 years ago. I anticipated that anything in this part of the River Walk would be even pricier than the normally overpriced venues, but the prices on their posted (dinner) menu were, if not bargains, at least not unreasonable: $13 to $16 for sandwiches, $20 or so for entrées.
We were seated almost immediately at a table hidden from the water by a planter. We couldn't see the strollers at riverside, but enjoyed all the ambience of the location: the perfect weather, the beautiful La Mansión Hotel on the opposite side; just a little traffic noise (and one siren) from street level; and a soft burble of conversation from all around.
Our server seemed new, tense and timid, but did a fine job throughout the meal. She brought me a sample of the chocolate chipotle sauce (it sounded too much like salsa molé for me to order it without tasting it first; I've had some wonderful molés, and others that are less appealing than dog puke) and kept our chips and salsa coming, followed up with us a couple of times at appropriate points, and hunted down answers to our questions, or at least tried to.
The complimentary chips and salsa provided are very good. The chips are thin and fresh, though a lot of them had broken down to too-small fragments; the salsas --- one regular, one fire-roasted and served hot --- were both very good as well; chunky, with nice seasoning and not too runny. Despite having those to nosh on, we decided to split an appetizer. On our waitress's recommendation, we went for the tamale pops (see picture). Delightful balls of seasoned pork lightly fried and nestled on a bead of guacamole, they immediately attracted stares from the couple from Alabama who sat across the aisle from us. I always appreciate dishes that provoke conversation with strangers. These, as it happened, also taste good. They were a little overpriced, I thought, at $9, but then, this is the River Walk. Here, they seem reasonable.
For our entrées, my friend Roland went with the Stuffed Iron Burger, while I chose one smoked brisket enchilada in chocolate chipotle sauce (that sauce having passed review with flying colours), and one smoked chicken enchilada in salsa verde.
|Last city inspection: 10/2016|
The enchiladas were served with a small block of Spanish rice, good but unremarkable, and an equally small side of beans; you have the choice of black beans, refried beans, or charro beans; I chose the last and found it excellent. It had quite a bit of both ham and bacon in it, and there was some unidentifiable seasoning in the mix that really took it beyond merely good charro beans. I asked the waitress, who asked in the kitchen, but as she read from the list she'd made the only thing out of the ordinary was "solaro," which isn't a thing. Possibly she meant "celeriac," but by that point I was beyond following up. In any case, the beans were worthy of the venue.
The enchiladas were lightly filled, but had excellent textures and the sauces of each complemented the fillings in expert fashion. The chicken was nicely shredded, well-smoked without being at all dry, and with a very good smoky flavour; and the salsa verde was a quality mixture. The brisket was delicious, also with a clear smoky flavour, and the chocolate chipotle sauce was magnificent: rich, deeply flavoured, without the slightest hint of overwhelming the dish. (The sauce is also very good on tostadas....)
Roland's burger, which, like my enchiladas, we split, was of good size, with a satisfying patty stuffed with cheese and mild chiles verdes; it was served on what looked like a whole-wheat bun that was lightly toasted, but which seemed a little chewy by the time I got around to eating my half. It was served with fries that were coated in salt and parmesan cheese: too much of the former, not enough of the latter. Though in all honesty I could do without either. The fries would not have suffered from another few seconds in the oil, either. They were the outliers of an otherwise very good meal.