Guadalajara, a Mexican restaurant in Briarcliff, has unreached potential. When you enter, you arrive in the bar area where there are a few high-top tables and stools where you may see a few customers forgetting their 401-K woes over a glass or five.
Warning: If you are in a hurry or have an appointment, go somewhere else quickly. The experience has been that the waiters are quite slow on the uptake when it comes to greeting you and getting you to your table. That’s where it begins.
As you are escorted into the dining area, you will notice windows overlooking the parking lot and Route 9. Although not the sexiest of views, it can be nice on a bright day – - think sun room. Mexican decorations adorn the warm terra-esque walls and are off-set by white linen clothed tables. The ambiance is charming.
The drink menu is the standard fare- – margaritas and all that. It is always nice to enjoy a well-made Margarita. The disappointment is that their offerings are all made with a “mix” rather than utilizing their ample supply of fresh limes. Even upon request, they could not be convinced to accommodate a freshly squeezed drink. In addition they have, surprisingly for a small local Mexican restaurant, a selection of decent wines which they serve in appropriate stemware. I decided wine to be the option. A delicious 2003 Spanish Rioja at the correct temperature was an enjoyable call.
In the world of appetizers, go for the Guacamole al Molcajete (a lava rock mortar). This is a fun option when dining with friends as well – - extra special as the guacamole is prepared table side in the molcajete with a small wooden spoon. Your waiter mashes a combination of white Spanish onion, fresh jalapeño, sea salt, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice (at least I got my squeeze here)! Then avocados are cross-hatched and gently folded into the mixture, finished by a quick addition of chopped red tomato. Delicious. It is perfect to spread on a warm soft flour tortilla or as a condiment for the homemade tortilla chips. The chips have potential, but lack a rain of salt as they come from the fryer. Multiple options are available in the quesadilla department as well – although decent, not so interesting. Another recommendation is the Ceviche de Escallops (scallops) which are marinated in lemon juice and melded with a nice blend of onion, cilantro, fresh chilies and tomato.
Main dishes are varied. Certainly one can get tacos, a burrito, etc. Some dishes that should have some zip and zing lack in that department. If you like your zip and zing, you may want to request to have it kicked up a bit. Go for the more authentic earthy choices such as the Mole Poblano or the Puerco a la Pipian, which is served in a sauce made of pumpkin seeds. Another dish done well is the Carne Asada Poblana which is a broiled skirt steak that has been marinated in a blend of fresh lime juice and traditional Mexican spices. The Crepas de Camarones is tasty, yet quite rich. The issue here is sometimes the shrimp are perfectly tender, other times a rubber band. It is hit or miss on this one. If you are undecided, go for a combination platter.
There is a small children’s menu as well.
Desserts can be fun, if you even have room for one, as portions at Guadalajara are substantial. I would push you toward the Helado Frito (fried ice cream) – - crunchy on the outside, nice and chilly on the inside – - the intrigue by most diners is, “How do they do that!?” Try the flan. It is nice – - so much in fact, that the portion here just seems to be “just not enough” to satisfy – - it becomes a tease with its creamy ‘dulce de leche’ flavor.
So why am I saying, “Not so much?” The wait for service is consistently slow. The wait for your meal can be excruciating. My dining companions over multiple visits have complained of sitting too long for a meal that shouldn’t feel like a seven-course chef’s tasting. If you go on the weekend, you’ll be accosted by a band of Mariachis which, in my opinion, should be invited to the table, not overstep conversation with friends, and then leave the customer feeling odd about not having the appropriate change in one’s wallet to tip – - it’s a pleasure for some, not for me.
The overall opinion I have developed is this:
The food is good. The portions are quite ample. Pricing is reasonable. However, the consistent lack of enthusiasm by waitstaff, attention to service and detail, and pacing in the kitchen, make the idea of eating at Guadalajara a burden.
Guadlajara Mexican Restaurant
2 Union St
Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510