Opening a restaurant is not easy; running one isn't either. This is especially true for a place opening in a location that might be considered "snake bit" after housing everything from Korean food to breakfast food over the past couple of years. And as much as I hope that Mamacita's, the attractively decorated Mexican cafe that opened this past week at the corner of University and Kavanaugh, will be the one to break the curse of that location, they've got quite a ways to go before they can hope to do it.
The wait staff at Mamacita's is friendly, but they obviously haven't gotten down how they want their floor to move. Our glasses sat empty for quite some time while multiple servers stood huddled behind the bar, and I had to grab some silverware from an adjacent table after being unable to get somebody's attention. Our food came out from the kitchen quickly, though, so we'll cut them some slack due to first week jitters. The menus were hopelessly full of strange typos, offering dishes served "smotehered" with "mashrooms" and "chicken slaices" — another sign that things might be going off half-cocked.
Worse than the inconsistent service were some glaring problems with the food. The two salsas that hit our table were described as "mild" and "hot," but we found the mild to be pretty tasteless and the hot to be more salty than spicy. This heavy-handedness with the salt shaker extended to our entrees, with the grilled flavor of my carne asada and chorizo tacos being overwhelmed completely by salt. In addition, having requested my tacos be served with just onions and cilantro, there wasn't a single bit of onion to be found (although the cilantro was nice and fresh). The wife's chicken burrito wasn't much better — the chicken was cooked well, but the overall plate was far too salty. In addition, the queso poured over the top of the burrito was thin and watery, adding very little to the overall dish.
I don't like coming down hard on a restaurant trying to find its legs, but there's nothing about Mamacita's that differentiates it from dozens of other Mexican joints across the city. Indeed, the over-salted food we ate at the place is not nearly as good as the fresh food served up at many local taquerias for a fraction of the cost. The restaurant itself is an attractive dining space, so I hope the place makes some needed adjustments — otherwise, I fear they'll be just another culinary casualty on the corner.