A Moody Meal
Cornbread! Cornbread! Cornbread!
Rosalita's offers a lot: huge portions, a spacious atmosphere, no lines, live music, cornbread and even a waterfall behind the bar. But its food and its menu are nothing more than the typical Tex-Mex fare.
As one is swiftly seated upon entering the restaurant, one can't help but feel somewhat self-satisfied having just passed the hungry, waiting mob outside the Border. Rosalita's glass roof creates the impression of dining under the stars. A live mariache band, (a great asset if you want to impress a date), the hot-pepper Christmas lights and the Corona-bottle salt and pepper shakers altogether transport you to a tastefully-done Mexican tourist trap.
The menu is full of the standard barbecue-and-burritos items. Quesedillas and tostadas, ribs and chicken, tacos and fajitas...get the picture? There is a small section of less common, south-of-the-border cuisine, but the only major innovation is their picnic buffet table, free with any entree or $4.50 by itself, loaded with a generous variety of side trappings and vegetables and fruits. And then there is the cornbread, yes, the cornbread. The first bite set a standard too high for the rest of the meal to follow. The two of us just can't agree on what makes this stuff so damn special; we can't even agree on whether it is heavy or light, moist or dry, crumbly or chewy. Perhaps it is simply an individual, spiritual experience. You have to try it.
Appetizers are towards the expensive side, mostly between $4.00 and $5.50, but their size, if nothing else, justified the price. The Conquistadore Caesar Salad, with one of the more colorful names on the menu, is a sprawling mass of greens topped by what they wrongfully claimed to be lots of anchovies (just three strips!) and garlic. It was nothing special, but it certainly cleared out the bowels. Grandma Lora's chili and cheese dip is rich and dark and truly yummy, however. And it goes great with the cornbread.
The entrees are reasonably priced, mostly $7.00 to $13.00. Their size, yet again, is almost unreasonably large, but that's not really a negative, now is it? Add to that the buffet to satisfy all of your side-dish fetishes (cornbread), and you'll find the appetizers are quite honestly unnecessary. But as for the taste...when we took our first bite of an enormous brick of a beef burrito bursting with rabbit food filler, the long line at the Border became understandable. The shrimps and mussels prepared in a "Veracruz style" is aesthetically pleasing but is in reality a watered down version of a Manhattan clam chowder with the wrong ingredients. And then there is Rosalita's Whim, a sampler plate of apparently what the chef is in the mood to cook. In one corner of the Whim were the chicken quesadillas, kid brother to the burrito without the salad bar inside. Covering the center of the plate was an assortment of barbecued sausage, shrimp and pork, drenched in a "Bad Mood" sauce. Although the sauce was recommended as spicier and better than the "Good Mood" alternative, it was sweet enough to put on pancakes. The bad mood came more from the inclusion of a slice of white bread on the platter, an impardonable sin when the chef could have topped it off with cornbread instead.
Despite our less than spectacular experience, Rosalita's does offer promise, especially as an alternative to those mammoth lines down the block. It's worth the trip just to have Lora's chili and the picnic bar (cornbread), and you don't even come out smelling like a chain-smoker's fried chicken cook-off.
Restaurant Review Rosalita's The Atrium 50 Church Street.