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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Brunch Report: Taco Martinez #2

This morning, my wife, daughter and I met my mother-in-law and and some visiting family who came in from California and Houston because they needed to taste a real San Antonio type taco. It took a while, but we got it done at the newly opened Taco Martinez on Military Drive just north of Hiway 90 near Lackland's Hamburger Hill.

The location of this new restaurant which apparently opened just this week, is very familiar to us. For years, it was a Bonanza Restaurant, then, when the franchise left, they called it Bandana, so if you happen to drive by, you might confuse the lettering and think that it was still Bonanza. Inside, it looked the same, operated the same, had the same menu as Bonanza, and all of the same Bonanza employees.

When that pooped out, the space took on a Chinese flavor, then perhaps a different Chinese flavor, and now, Taco Martinez #2. I have driven by the other Taco Martinez, but never had the pleasure of eating there.

Okay, to the point. You must gauge everything I say with the understanding that we had a party of 13 people and further, it was easily 10 to 15 minutes before all of us were in place. Though we never communicated to anyone that we would be having an ever expanding group, I was content to accept that the staff was not waiting on us so that we could get everyone in place. I fully understand that it takes a really good wait staff to handle large groups efficiently and it is only made tougher when there are many large groups. Looking around, I could see multiple groups of 8 or more.

When we first sat down, we were entertained by a lady who was complaining about a jalapeƱo seed being in her husband's taco. In a Mexican restaurant? The Hell you say!
The waitress, then a more senior waitress seemed to roll with the punches and take off the cost of several items on the ticket, though it was clear that this family had eaten about all they were going to eat before finding a reason to complain. How convenient.

Okay, so at about 30 minutes into our being seated and catching up with visiting family, we had still not been on contact with our waitress (other than when we first walked in and got three menus) and several of us were getting quite antsy. I no longer eat at Denny's for lessor of an infraction. As we looked around and saw that a smaller table of diners next to us were already being served drinks (it appears their order had been taken during the commotion of hugging and picture taking), I was taking note of the multiple faces of distress at our long line of tables.

Finally, one of the cousins went to find a manager to request a waitress, and within 15 minutes, we were having our orders taken.

Again, a few things to keep in mind as you read this: The place was packed, it is brand new, and we had a large group. But, I had already made up my mind that I would never set foot in the place again until it had reverted back to Bonanza or at least Bandana!
Good food has a way of fixing bad service. I'll skip the further service related breakdowns involving the fact that we didn't receive any forks, napkins or our drinks until long after we had received our food (and at the insistence of several vocal personalities at our table), and just tell you that the food was superb!

Within our group, some people had plates with rice & beans and fajitas, others had soup, a few had gorditas or chulupas, and I had the Carne Guisda with cheese and also chorizo and egg tacos. The size of the tacos and the quality of the contents made for a great value. By all means, order light as most of the people at our table required take-out boxes.I would say that Taco Martinez would probably be a good "to-go" place initially until they get the staff up to speed, but make no mistake, the food was outstanding. Not a single person in our party complained once we were stuffing our faces. It was as if the previous hour of waiting for things to come together had been forgotten.

I'm a sucker for good hand made flour tortillas. Taco Martinez gets 3.5 Tasty Treats for the food and a big fat zero for service. But, again, don't let our experience with a large party during the opening week stop you from giving them a try. I will go back, but it won't be with more than 4 or 5 people at a time.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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