just north of the Fulton Street circle
I've never really been a fan of the Blanco Cafe. It has a loyal following, people who presumably enjoy something about it, but I've never been among their number. To me, there were only two reasons to ever go there; one was its location, which is convenient to my house; the other was a neighbour who had some kind of personal relationship with the family that started the local chain.
Well, there are plenty of restaurants convenient to my house; and that neighbour died some years ago. I never went back to Blanco Cafe after that ... until last week. My immediate reason was the desire to get some exercise, something I don't do nearly enough of. My secondary reason was curiosity: had it improved at all in the years since I'd last been? In that time, one generation of owners had given way to successors, and I've been told that still others are now in charge there.
I've been back twice now, and have decided that twice is plenty.
The first time, I sat at the lunch counter on a stool that was so low I felt like a grown-up visiting a kindergarten. It was uncomfortable enough that, for my second visit, I resolved to take a table, even if that meant having to wait (though I would probably have just left and tried again later). But there were several open tables, and I took one in the back. I'm never comfortable occupying a table for four when I'm alone in a crowded restaurant -- a table for two, sure, but anything larger and you're taking food out of the servers' children's mouths. Fortunately at that moment, the place was busy but not crowded, and yes, it helped that about half the tables were occupied by people dining alone. That shouldn't matter, but it does.
|Last city inspection, January; score: 84|
And these are the things I don't like: the service is mediocre, the staff is unhappy, and the food is so-so. On both visits, it took too long for someone to wait on me. That might be understandable when I'm at a table in the back, though I know they saw me come in and sit down; there's no excuse for it when I'm at the lunch counter. Coffee refills were slow in coming, too. The waitress on my second visit spoke to me in what I can only describe in a murmur delivered through an etched frown. The cashier acted, on both visits, as though she had just that moment learned that her favourite soap opera had been cancelled, and she didn't want to talk about it. The staff I encountered on both visits were an effective counterpoint to the ambience of the place.
All my memory could conjure of the food at Blanco Cafe was the image of grease on a plate. That, at least, seems to no longer be the case. I ordered machacado tacos both times. Both times I got eggs with shreds of dried beef, scrambled with peppers and onions and wrapped in cold, dry flour tortillas. On the first visit, they didn't ask if I wanted corn or flour and I didn't specify; on the second visit, I specified corn but got flour anyway. They were not good tortillas. On the first visit, the eggs méjicana were done the way I like them, the way I think they should be; on the second visit, someone in the kitchen decided salt was a good thing for scrambled eggs. (I strongly disagree). Both times, though, they were scrambled to a very good consistency, without too much butter or oil, and had they been tucked into a nice, soft, pillowy warm corn tortilla they might have been enough to tempt me to come back to Blanco Cafe again and again. But being, as they were, stuffed into a couple of rigid old flour tortillas will ensure that, when I need an excuse to take a walk, I'll go to one of the many other taquerías near my house.