Last night, upon completion of our latke-delivery mission, Margaret and I tried this new Grandpa spot on the UES -- so called because it's just a short stroll from his apartment, which is located in the otherwise culinarily drab East 70's. MXco, a new Mexican restaurant owned by the same people who created El Centro and Hell's Kitchen, occupies the old Vynl space on the corner of 78th and 2nd. We went at around 7:30 on a Wednesday night, and the place was completely packed -- the bar, especially, looked to be about 3 customers deep in some places. Seemingly arbitrary -- isn't it -- which restaurants continue to fill up during the recession and which ones are continuously empty at even the most in-demand dinner hours -- Bar Stuzzichini, for instance, which several months ago resembled a desolate highway mall restaurant despite popularity on the blogs and among critics.
The menu is relatively simple and basic for upscale Mexican -- there are tacos, quesadillas, flautas, burritos, and fajitas, as well as some preciously presented platos pequenos -- black beans in a shot glass, for instance, eyed at the table beside ours. The vegetarian options here are more interesting and varied than the typical grilled vegetable option at most comparable cantinas -- artichokes, epazote, and huitlacoche are some of the more compelling meatless tortilla fillings. I had the black bean quesadillas with goat cheese and epazote, which were attractively presented in little, overlapping triangles. These were delicious -- perfectly griddled to the point of being slightly crunchy, but not greasy and certainly not overloaded with cheese, as quesadillas often are. The yucca fries with a trio of aiolis were similarly special and wonderfully spiced, although as they cooled down the yucca was more dried-out root vegetable than delectable potato alternative. Also, the person who delivered them could not say what the aiolis were, and did not offer to find out.
MXco is brand new, and the level of service reflects that inexperience. Our bill came out wrong twice, both times listing things that the table next to ours had ordered. Slow eaters of the world will appreciate, however, that the meal was well paced and no plates were cleared from the table without express permission from us. This is a place that I'd certainly go back to -- and not only in conjunction with a Grandpa visit.