Tag Archives: Faneuil Hall

Clarke’s (Faneuil Hall): Come For The Ladies Room, Stay For The Nachos

18 Jun

Nothing tastes better after a crushing bar trivia defeat than a steaming plate of nachos. This week, we’re stuffing our faces at Clarke’s in Faneuil Hall.

Before we begin the review, we need to make a brief statement regarding the Clarke’s Boston website. Presenting possibly the most awkward and/or brilliant marketing move we’ve seen in awhile, the website proudly proclaims itself “the” bar in Boston to meet people. And how does a  Faneuil Hall bar achieve a favorable balance between the genders? By proclaiming via prominent website banner they have the largest and cleanest ladies rooms in Boston! Clarke’s, you have our attention…We did a hasty Google search and discovered that no one has formally reviewed this statement, so you’ve read it here first:

According to one Nacho Patroller, the ladies room wasn’t anything to write home about, though the stalls were large enough that you didn’t have crawl over the toilet to close the door (ladies, you know what we mean). One of our guest patrollers also commented that the bathrooms appeared clean, but thanks to the dark colored tile, could be secretly filthy. We would post a picture, but we didn’t want to be “those girls” taking photos in the ladies room. So, we suppose a guarded “well done” is deserved. But this isn’t Bathroom Patrol (add that to the list of blogs to write after we’ve eaten all the nachos in Boston). On to the ‘chos.

  • Appearance: (8) It was generally agreed at our table that these nachos were some variation of “b-e-a-utiful” or “ha-uuuuge.” While the presentation was on the sloppy side, the mouthwatering display of cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, jalepenos, fresh tomatoes and green onions, and multicolor chips left us ready to dig in.
  • Distribution: (9) At first glance, we thought distribution would be a problem. Typically when we see that much cheese atop a plate of nachos, it means that there won’t be much left in the under-layers. This was absolutely not a problem here: the cheese was layered all the way to the bottom, with just enough crispy chips left unsoaked to use for dipping. These nachos had both chicken and cheese. Our one complaint is that the scant quantity of chili was hidden in the middle, requiring a bit of excavation.
  • Quality: (6.1) Good flavors on the whole, but nothing to get us excited. The chicken was moist, but not especially flavorful. Chili was generic, but tasted homemade. Salsa was great!
  • Price: (7.1) We toyed with the idea of getting the $25 nacho platter, but we’re glad we stuck with the well portioned $12 plate. The smaller size was enough for an appetizer for four people. $10 would have been a more reasonable price, so we assume that extra $2 went to the Faneuil Hall Atmosphere Fund.
  • Overall: 30.2/40

A strong showing from a bar we all but discounted because it happened to be down the street from Hong Kong Faneuil Hall. Just when we’d all but written off Faneuil Hall…

Mija Cantina: Not Worth Their Salt

13 Jun

The Boston Nacho News Network (BNNN) is all atwitter today with the news that Jalepenos is closing (the curse of Our House West rears its ugly head…). But with its passing comes another crappy Mexican restaurant–this time in the doldrums of Quincy Market. On first glance, Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar  seemed to be a lovely oasis with a design concept best described by our friend Zach as “pro-tourist salvage-yard neo-mexigoth.” We would have been wise, however, to heed the advice of the many Yelp reviewers who cautioned us to keep clear.

According to our server, Mija opened two weeks ago, but if we didn’t know better, we would assume someone had hauled in a wait staff off the street, forgot to train them, and then opened doors three months early. We didn’t even know where to begin in describing the problems with the service, so we condensed it down into a list:

  • Upon arriving, a nervous looking hostess told us it would be an hour wait for a table of seven. This was Wednesday early evening, and once we pointed to a whole slew of empty tables and told her we would just sit separately, she told us they could push two tables together.
  • While waiting for our table, we noticed numerous waitresses demonstrate an absolute inability to hold a tray.
  • Our waitress could only find one drink menu, and then brought out the wrong beer three times. We asked for a Long Trail IPA–first they served us Bud Light. Twice they brought out Harpoon IPA. We gave up after that.
  • It took five bartenders 22 minutes to serve us two margaritas so bad that we had to send them back.
  • In deference to our vegetarian table-mate, we asked for carnitas to be served on the side of our ‘chos. When the runner put the plate on the table, we saw a distinct pile of meat. Asking him if these had “carnitas on the side,” he quickly said yes and left before we could argue. We would have been grumpy about this until we noticed that the beans had meat built in. Which brings us to the issue of the nachos…
Based on the description on the menu, these nachos had promise: tortilla chips, charro beans (pinto beans with bacon and chorizo) , Monterey jack cheese, chile con queso, pico, crema, guacamole, and carnitas.
  • Appearance: (7.5) Attractive, with an artful drizzle of crema.  Points off for the “on the side” carnitas…
  • Quality: (7) We enjoyed the carnitas and beans; however, the chips were both unevenly cooked and unevenly salted, so much so that there were bites that left us choking and teary-eyed with sodium overdose (and Nacho Patrol LOVES their salt).  The guacamole and salsa were nothing special.
  • Distribution: (7.3) There were a lot of toppings, but overall the dish was heavy, rather than complementary. The unevenly cooked chips only added to the problem as some became incredibly soggy under the weight of all the toppings.
  • Price: (3) The management might think that $13 nachos (and $11 margaritas) are appropriate for the space and location, but we say they simply aren’t worth the trouble of dealing with this establishment.
  • Overall: 24.8/40.  These nachos aren’t bad, but please, don’t go.  This place hasn’t yet earned the right to be in business and we don’t want to encourage them!
We were lucky to share this meal with a small army of food industry professionals, and as they pointed out, a new restaurant needs a competent wait-staff to support it while it builds a reputation. Sadly, Mija’s under-qualified staff and overpriced menu handicapped what could have been a pleasant dining experience. We will be eagerly anticipating the next Mexican restaurant to sweep in on the Tex-Mex tides.

Zuma Tex-Mex Grill: Bargain Basement (and not the good kind)

18 Jun

Zuma Tex-Mex Grill is an easy place to forget. We consider ourselves fairly adept when it comes to the Tex-Mex joints in the Boston area, so we were shocked to discover that Zuma’s had slipped under our radar for so long. Call us idiots, but we’re willing to bet you didn’t know about this place either. Located in the basement of one of the long retail buildings abutting Quincy Market, we were inclined to forgive Zuma’s the musty smell, the dank atmosphere, and the decorative can of Manwich, when we saw the sign for $15 pitchers of margaritas. In the abyss of Faneuil Hall tourist traps, we thought we might have found a little slice of Nacho Patrol heaven. And while these nachos did present some very creative distribution, we can’t say we’ll be going back for seconds any time soon.

  • Appearance: (4) We were generally underwhelmed by the muted tones of this plate. Even the tomatoes and lettuce seemed sad. The chicken, cheese, chips, and pinto beans bended together in a wash of beige and orange. Quick–somebody grab the Cholula! (Don’t worry…They keep it on the table! Take that Border Cafe!)
  • Distribution: (9) We’re clearing out a new page in the Nacho Patrol Book of Distribution (in between the Book of Hot Sauce and the Book of Dive Bars) and saving it specially for Zuma’s. Instead of using chips, the ingredients were sandwiched between two large, flat tortilla shells, which were then doused in a heavy coating of cheese and beans and then baked till melty. The whole mess was then cut into triangular portions, perfect for team consumption. We might liken it to Taco Bell‘s infamous Mexican Pizza. The slices were finally arranged around a nest of pico, lettuce, and sour cream to create a successful and unique presentation. Not one chip was sparse, though we did take off a point since we would have liked the salsa on top rather than on the side.
  • Quality: (3) There’s not much in terms of quality that we liked. The chicken was flavorless and the beans came straight from a can. The tomatoes were overly ripe and there is almost never an occasion to put lettuce on nachos. On the upside, we did enjoy the globs of cheese.
  • Price: (6) $7.99 is a fairly reasonable price, but quality and serving size seemed to suffer as a result. In this case, it is certainly true that you get what you pay for.
  • Overall: 22/40

Next time we’re at Zuma’s just give us the can of Manwich.