Thursday, October 23, 2008

Viva Red Hook is a no go!

I don't do this sort of thing that often, but I had a particularly memorable experience, so here I go:

The missus and I are incurable brunch machines. We don't eat dinner out that often, but we eat brunch out at least once a week. Often twice. We're not crazy, we just like eggs. And coffee. And the occasional flapjack.

So our neighbors tell us about this place called "Viva" in Red Hook (Brooklyn). It's tex-mex and apparently it's not half bad. Now we're both californios and have pretty much given up on good Mexican food in New York. But we still hold out hope for decent Mexican food.

So we head to Red Hook (a feat-but we are the rare New Yorkers with a car, so it's not so hard). We see that Viva has a sign up and from the looks of the sign, the place is gonna be alright.

But it ain't. We walk in and the joint's empty. The host/waiter looks astonished to see anyone in there. So be it. We order coffee. He informs us that they don't have coffee. I silence the obvious rejoinder "then you don't serve brunch, do you?" Instead we order our chilaquiles and I walk out the door and up the street to grab some coffee from Baked.

I get back and we eventually get our chilaquiles. When done right, chilaquiles is god's own dish. It's best described as breakfast nachos, but it's way better than nachos ever could be. It is nothing less than the perfect Mexican breakfast. And in the face of huevos rancheros and huevos a la mexicana, that's saying something. But these chilaquiles were not. done. right. Not even close. The soggy slop that was put in front of us would have caused a duel in less civilized times.

We ate as much as we could choke down, waited to see our waiter again (never did-I'm pretty sure he felt the appropriate amount of shame at laying that crap in front of us) and eventually left a little cash and booked.

Not cool. Let me put this as plainly as I can: IF YOU DO NOT SERVE COFFEE YOU DO NOT GET TO ADVERTISE YOURSELF AS A BRUNCH ESTABLISHMENT. And if you serve sloppy, floppy, nasty crap and call it chilaquiles, you should be ashamed of yourself.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were looking for a Dennys. Kind of harsh to trash a place on one dish and when you were looking for brunch and try a mexican place. I learned long ago that a good brunch doesn't exist in Red Hook. Hope and Anchor is soooo mediocre.

I resisted Viva for a year, but finally tried it a month ago and have been back 3 times a week since. I too have the California "real" mexican background, and while I won't try to say this is anything close, it is the best I have found in Brooklyn. Of course like you, I am baseing this on one dish. I always go for the Chicken Burrito. Boring, yes, but they don't offer a mole which is my real favorite. A friend of mine who is Mexican, always gets the stuff peppers and said they are as good as you can get. The fried avocado is also really good (but will lead to a heart attack). The salsa and chips are great too (and home made). Totally different from what I typically like, but it is really good.

Yes, you are right, this place tends to be pretty empty most of the time, but what do you expect in such an out of the way location....of course that is part of the reason I love it. I can go anyday and park right out front and know I can get a table and have consistently good food. On top of that the woman who seems to run the place is really nice (unlike the assholes at places like Pacifico).

Anyway, you are entitled to your opinion (I have certainly trashed most of the restaurants in the area), but I think it is only fair that people get a different perspective. Plus I really really don't want this place to go out of business as I am adicted.

BTW, can you name a Mexican place you think is good? I would be happy to give it a shot (as long as you don't say Alma, Lobo, or Pacifico...then I will know you have no taste).

jiminy jilliker said...

I wasn't looking for a Denny's, I was looking for a decent Mexican brunch place. Mexican restaurants are my favorite places to get brunch (when they're halfway decent about it). Huevos rancheros, huevos a la mexicana, chilaquiles, huevos con chorizo...all of these are great breakfast/brunch dishes. My favorites, in fact.

More importantly, Viva was claiming via their sandwich boards on Van Brunt and in front of the restaurant that they served brunch. But they didn't serve coffee-sorry but that's insane. I had the same reaction at Cafe Cubana on Smith Street.

So I only had the one dish, but I'm not basing my reaction solely on that one dish. The lack of coffee while claiming to serve brunch was a serious problem but beyond that, the service was just awful. Barely a word from the guy when we came in, not a word when he dropped off our plates, and then we never saw him again. That's terrible service and it deserves to be called out.

If you want the place to stay in business, by all means continue to patronize it. Tell a friend. Lord knows it can't be easy to stay in business in Red Hook even in the best of circumstances. And for what it's worth, I'd put Hope and Anchor in the high-mediocre or moderately decent categories, but I agree, nothing to write home about.

As much as I hate to take the bait and prove my Mexican-food-eating bona fides, I do feel like I need to rise to the challenge. I agree Lobo is not good. Pacifico is bewildering in every respect: food, service, price...wha?! Alma's decent if a little overpriced. The Red Hook soccer fields were the best Mexican food I've had in NY, though I didn't make it out there this year and I understand things have changed for the worse. Beyond that, New York is a Mexican food wasteland as far as I'm concerned.

If you get out to the bay area, go to La Pinata in Alameda. That's the stuff...

Anonymous said...

Viva serves some great great dishes, including outstanding huevos rancheros for brunch. I live in Red Hook and go here regularly I love this place. Your review and follow up response to the other commentor is way too negative. Give Viva another try and order the huevos rancheros.

jiminy jilliker said...

I'm glad you had good experiences there. I didn't.
My review was not too negative-it was an accurate, honest account of what I experienced there.
The food I ordered was not very good, they didn't serve coffee and the service was very bad. Their huevos rancheros could be the best things ever put on a plate but it wouldn't get me back there. The service was atrocious and they didn't serve coffee. At a self-proclaimed brunch. Seriously.
And say what you will about the huevos, but I was given horrible chilaquiles.
Maybe it was an off day. I don't know and I don't care. They blew it and they lost a customer. End of story.