I've eaten in some very expensive restaurants before, and I have rarely left feeling that I got less than I paid for.
Expensive restaurants generally charge a lot of money because you get something very special. Sanford comes to mind and Lake Park Bistro. You have a very special evening when you go to those places.
I was shocked, however, when I stopped for lunch at COA while shopping in Bayshore Town Center on Friday.
I had heard about COA, operated by Marc and Marta Bianchini, who ran the outstanding Osteria Del Mondo for years. COA is billed as "The Heart of Mexican Street Food."
I just didn't know that the street they were talking about was Rodeo Drive.
I was stunned when I looked a the menu for lunch. A beef taco, it said, cost "5.1" which is a fancy way of writing $5.10. Ah, well, I figured that it was probably one of those big tortillas.
But no. It was your basic tiny taco shell, the kind you usually buy three of if you are buying from a real street vendor. And street vendors double up on the tortillas. That means if I wanted three little tacos for lunch, it would have cost $15.30. For three tiny tacos. For lunch.
I was scared, so I went for a Cobb Salad with shrimp. It came and there were a few tiny shrimp, the kind you get at those All You Can Eat places. And there was No bacon. I mean who ever heard of a Cobb Salad with no bacon?
The cost of the Cobb Salad was $14.50.
Nobody has ever called me a cheapskate. To the contrary, I've been faulted as being a spendthrift. But this place just seemed way, way out of line.
Fifteen bucks for a Cobb Salad with no bacon? Whew. Maybe I am a cheapskate.
COA is selling atmosphere, people. You won't see that kind of decor or staff at some cheap taco joint like Los Comales on 16th. Is the taco better at Los Comales? You bet, but does Coa reek of Favuloso or not take credit cards or make you just a little nervous that some vatos are going to break into your car or mug you on the way out? Guess what, that feeling of security costs money, which is translated to your plate cost. Marc is probably running at an 18-20% food cost and his LBW is probably just as low or lower, which is justified by the location.
The trouble begins when you fail to execute great service and delicious food, which is unfortunately true about Coa. The prices are irrelevant.
I agree with Artlvr, people are really coming down on the one place that isn't corporate in the mall. You think COA is corporate... walk around the corner to any other restaurant in the mall. I hate to break it to you, but the Cheesecake Factory isn't a local family owned business. And the idea that you have to drive to a specific area or certain people need to make food for it to be authentic? That's just odd. Plus, maybe I want some Mexican food when I'm at the mall. Every meal doesn't have to be some rewarding deep cultural experience. Oh, and on the $5.1 comment... I just hope Dave doesn't have me for Secret Santa.
So you're reviewing a Mexican restaurant based on a Cobb Salad and nothing else? I've eaten at COA and while its not my favorite place in town the food is good. It's street inspired, it costs more because they use higher quality ingredients, and you're not on the street you're at a table inside a restaurant.
Where to begin? Suddenly everyone is Ruth Reichel (Google her idiots). I've read stuff that a) they don't know what street food is; b) I like hard tacos so I'm old school; and c) its corporate Mexican.
Otheriwse, people seem to like it. It's a great space, in, yes, a mall owned by local people. So it's not "corporate." Corporate Mexican is Chipoltle, Taco Bell or Moes in the SE.
I'm old school so I like hard shells. No, actually, your parents hated you and forced you to eat ground beef in El Paso hard shell tacos from the oven.
Listen, it's inspired mexican food from the streets of Mexico; it's not an LA taco truck; the environment is the best you will get at Bayshore and feels great; ingredients (Nueskes pork belly tacos) speak for themselves.
We need to stop thinking Mexican food is peasant (ie cheap) food. It can be simple, good, moderately priced in a place that feels great.
DT really!?!! "I'd put only Cempazuchi above COA." Well, I would put Cempazuchi below Taco Bell...so where does that put COA? How is a steak fajita four pieces of tough, flavorless steak, with some green pepper? Oh, and I didn't know the microwave was the wauy to cook these days. Way to try and be hip and cool.
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