By Sheila Madsen, July 2016.
These are not restaurant reviews, but are mini observations because: my husband, Soren, and I live in Centro, we don’t own a car, we walk everywhere, and I don’t cook. Soren is the chef, and when he needs a break we go to these restaurants – again and again, and again. We eat out at least three times a week x 48 weeks x 8 years = 1,152 lunches or dinners out. Our mini observations are based on why we return to these establishments. The other thing to remember is that I am Celiac and can’t eat wheat, which eliminates all talk of pizza, sandwiches, empanadas, pastas, etc. etc. Like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, I haven’t eaten a dessert since 1973! Many of you adore sandwiches, pizza and pasta so don’t read this!
Our pet peeves: wait staff that stand around looking at their cell phones when they could be doing something productive. A bottle of Undurraga Chardonnay is $125 [less with the restaurant discount] – you can tell much about a restaurant by its wine pours and if they use the 3 x mark-up. Both of us grew up with Downtown Abbey rules; when you are finished your dinner you leave your knife and fork at six o’clock. Wait staff should not clear your plate until the entire table has finished eating. It’s a hot topic; many restaurant owners believe plates should be cleared away immediately, regardless if some people are still eating. I think Soren and I have managed to confuse every waiter in Centro by asking them wait for everyone to finish their meals!
El Bife in the Plazuela Machado still has excellent service thanks to Eddie/Eric and Ramon.[full introduction here.] Always willing to please and willing to mix and match. Some of the most consistent service and food in Centro. We love the petit fillet, Gaucho salad and beef casserole. La Bohemia continues to have an interesting space. People enjoy the thin crust pizzas. The chef is not on site, not even sure if there is a chef. Go for music, drinks and try a tapas. El Presidio [full introduction is here] inside Casa Garcia has a gorgeous bar, a courtyard and an upscale cantina. There is just one menu now which makes life so easy. You don’t sense anyone is in charge, there are no floor managers, yet the food is consistently good. Chef Diego does change the menu several times a year. This is a destination, a divine setting and the prices are reasonable. Topolo [full introduction is here] is another winner for a special occasion restaurant – an elegant evening, superb service, and consistent food quality. Topolo just keeps on improving. Chef Héctor Peniche, Héctor’s Bistro (formerly Molika) [full introduction is here] fare is always fresh and interesting. He changes it up with blackboard specials and people line up for his bistro dishes. Since the expansion into Héctor’s Bistro (and the larger space) I’ve noticed the service can be erratic. For many people, service is not the main event; food and friends are. When Héctor is in the house, he still has the can-do attitude and aims to please. Friends swear by Il Mosto, but for some reason we never go, just not on our radar. The wait staff at Pedro y Lola’s is attentive (with drinks) but they don’t seem to care (or inquire) if you are happy with your food. Go for a drink, a light bite and the great nightly music. Water’s Edge [full introduction is here] continues to have excellent wait staff [although the staff has changed] but owners ensure the restaurant runs smoothly. It’s a winner on all levels: food, service, atmosphere and a consistent product. The elegant Casa 46 [owned by Pueblo Bonito, full introduction is here] opened in November, 2015 with the wonderful view overlooking the Plazuela Machado. I had high hopes; there was an interesting menu, a long wine list and many female wait staff eager to please. The problem? After nine months the menu has never changed, nor are there ever any specials offered. The young wait staff has not learned a single thing – they greet you nicely, then they just don’t know what to do after that. Hopeless. The wine prices, either by the glass or by the bottle, have an insanely high mark-up. We know how much the wine costs, it’s insulting to diners to charge that much. Wines by the glass are from $120-$180. Another example of a high mark-up is Hendricks gin: Casa 46 charges $170, Gaia $115; Héctor’s, $110; El Presidio, $120; Beefeater gin: Casa 46 charges $115, Gaia $80,El Presidio, $97, Héctor’s and El Bife $70. The square is improved by Gaia Bistrot! Chef and owner Gilberto del Toro opened his dream restaurant [full introduction is here] [underneath Casa 46] in March, 2016. The service is excellent, the menu varied and interesting and well priced, and he now has the wine list organized – all decent pricing. On Wednesdays, Gilberto offers a three-course international evening complete with wine pairing for $380, $280 without the wine. Sundays he’s dishing out paella on the terrace. He’s passionate and promises to keep changing the menu. Outside of Centro there’s the hip Life en Español, Mahi Sushi Bar [best sushi in Mazatlan], and the popular Aca Los Charros – [you’ll find introductions for those three here]and I’m sure there are many more excellent restaurants, we just don’t get there. These are purely personal Centro observations. You, your friends, your family will mostly likely have completely different thoughts and opinions!
Water’s Edge [WE] Bistro, Sixto Osuna #48, 136 0895, closed Mondays
July 2016: We have followed Chef Alastair Porteous and his wife Tracey Grantham for years. From the boutique hotel location of Casa Lucila to their new home on Sixto Osuna. Oui, si, we want WE because: it’s quiet, it’s tastefully decorated, it’s calm, you can chat with friends easily, the food is tasty, fresh, and an interesting mix and last but not least – excellent wait staff. I just know Alfonso will give us first-class treatment and I won’t waste negative energy being aggravated by poor service.
Their $120 pesos lunch is perfect for meetings, or meeting friends to catch up. Seven dishes all delicious, created for every food preference (gluten-free, meat- free, carb-free) served with either soup of-the-day or a salad and, and, the $120 includes a beer, a glass of house wine, soft drinks, ice tea. Where else can you get four-star treatment with super fresh food for $120?
We adore their dinners too. Soren always choses the petit filet ( I can’t get him to change) and I invariably select either several starters or the Thai red curry prawns. I always appreciate the fact you can eat small or large depending on your mood.
Hits: carefully chosen fresh ingredients – from meat to seafood to vegetables – lovely, calm atmosphere, superb wait staff and excellent price points. Chef Alastair practices farm-to-table when it’s available.
Misses: No misses really. It’s pet peeve of mine that wine is measured (I know they want to get five glasses out of the bottle) but it’s a little too Swiss for me. Give a good pour and charge more! Wish chef would offer more specials.
El Shrimp Bucket, Olas Altas
Updated July 2016: The summer of 2016 will be spent making decor and menu changes. The owners won’t reveal the changes but I did hear the word “bistro.” In the meantime -Raul Campos Esponda is still the manager and he continues to make improvements. He’s added music in the evenings and the food has returned to a decent level of consistency. Wait staff are still enthusiastic; you do need to grab their attention as they tend to chat and watch tv. It’s still extremely popular for breakfast – both for Nationals and the foreign community.
Hits: immense menu, from salads, to sandwiches, to steaks, to pastas and of course shrimp. Has one of the best tortilla soups, $43. Excellent chicken soup too for that winter cold. Charbroiled tacos filled with shrimp, bacon and melted cheese- $99, again good for sharing. Shrimp Bucket offers 12 shrimp, prepared your way for $175. Bathrooms are clean- now that you have to ask for the key. Air conditioned in the summer, a real oasis. Ocean view, sunsets. Opens at 7 a.m. closes very late, depending on business.
Misses: no real wine list, but they do a good pour in an elegant stemmed wine glass. Go for beer or National drinks.
La Copa De Leche, Olas Altas
This has been in the same location for over 50 years. Coffee is poured at 7 a.m. and the restaurant keeps on serving until 10:30 p.m. We’ve eaten at La Copa at least 40 times. It’s now closed on Tuesdays.
Hits: waiters Ernesto and Gustavo couldn’t be more helpful or friendly. We like the tuna salad $58, easily shared (ask them to go light on the mayonnaise), enchiladas pollo with mole sauce- the mole sauce is probably out of a can but I like it. All breakfast dishes are good, not great, but good. Smoothies are $30 crammed with fresh fruit. Bathrooms are very clean. Ocean view, sunsets. Family owned, respect and care for employees shows. Ernesto has been working at La Copa for 20 years. Someone is treating him right. Live music now,four times a week.
Misses: there’s no chef, but a very competent short order cook. Coffee is instant. No wine, only beer and National drinks. Shrimp at $160 is not great value.
Héctor’s Bistro, Mariano Escobedo and Heriberto Frias
Misses: The staff seem eager to chat amongst themselves rather than pay attention to their customers. We have now returned to the bar because the service there is attentive and because chef has added some tasty new dishes that appeal to us both.
Pedro y Lola’s, Plazuela Machado
Updated July 2016: The menu has not changed in a year but friends continue to enjoy the black pepper filet ($156) with a creamy black pepper sauce flambéed in brandy was tender, yes, super tender and perfectly cooked. The grilled salmon in tamarind sauce ($182) again, perfectly cooked with a delicious sauce that had the exact right amount of zing. Grilled octopus ($128) met with rave reviews as did the spinach and pear salad ($79.) The pork shank tacos ($81, easily shared) were tested for the third time and still full of flavor and tender. I chose the crab and chicken roll ($129) – a crispy chicken breast stuffed with fresh crab served in a guijillo and almond sauce, a wonderful combination that was filling, yet light. (The menu claims it’s served with wild rice, it isn’t. Hola Uncle Ben’s.) Popular with two diners was the sesame tuna in a citrus soy sauce ($199) – seared (more like kissed) yellowtail tuna served with an avocado and chicharron salad and a “spicy, fresh sauce…it’s worth it…” There’s more on the menu: 11 appetizers, two soups, three salads, nine mains, eight fish and shrimp dishes, three “star” offerings such as “ Lola La Grande Shrimp,” plus a sandwich, a burger and a pasta, finishing with six desserts. Only open in the evening, the quality of the food seems to be improving .I’m happy about that as I really, really like the owner, Alfredo Gomez Rubio – he is a strong supporter of Centro Historico and of music. No other restaurant in Centro (in Mazatlan?) has the selection of jazz and blues to accompany your dinner.
Hits: The menu has a good variety and the price point is decent; remember there is live music every night. Reservations are recommended. Bathrooms are clean but need a facelift. Open every day.
Misses: very limited wine selection by the glass, and no cappuccino machine. Management and staff do not really care if you have a bad meal – full plates are taken away with no questions asked. Alfredo, for God’s sake buy some decent wine – we are willing to pay extra!
El Bife, Plazuela Machado
Hits: Owned by Casa Country, the meat is usually very tender. [see above]. The two main employees, Eddie/Eric and Ramon [see above] make the visits so enjoyable we’ve taken to calling it “Our Office.” Nothing is a problem, and if it’s not on the menu, they’ll try to make it happen. El Bife has an decent Chardonnay at $75 by the glass, Casillero del Diablo, and L.A. Cetto cab. by the bottle, $250 and a chard. by the bottle, also $250. Pricing across the board is fair, you never feel you are being over-charged. [full introduction here interesting to note that they still are on top of their game.]
Misses: limited wine list, they do not have a Sauvignon Blanc. Closed Mondays.