Monday, November 29, 2010

Adios Taqueros

With all of the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle last week, the announced closing of Taqueros probably did not garner much attention.  But considering the number of diners (or lack thereof) at Taqueros in the last few months, I don't know if anything short of a front page posting on would have caused a reaction from the dining public.

The Folk Singer and I stopped in for our first and only meal at Taqueros on a Friday night in October.  We were the only people in the cavernous restaurant from 6:30 till 7:30, when two other tables filled up.  Our dinner was below average from start to finish, save for one shining moment.  We began with stale tostadas served with guacamole laced with so much lime juice that it had obviously been used both as a preservative and a means of resurrecting avocados that had been hibernating in the refrigerator far too long. Tacos filled with dry shredded pork were the lowlights of the entree round.  The highlight of the meal was the pipian sauce ladled atop chile rellenos stuffed with shrimp and cheese. When deciding what to order, the waitress had advocated this homely sauce made of pumpkin seeds and jalapeno. She did not steer us wrong, as the smooth light green sauce had both depth of flavor and vibrancy.

Restaurants come and restaurants go.  After taking a number of runs at keeping Taqueros opened, it looks like Chef Peters has finally threw in the towel.  My question is this: Why?  Admittedly, I never ate at the first iteration of Taqueros in Kenner, but I have never heard anything but great things about the food there.  So did Chef Peters bite off more than he could handle with the huge space on St. Charles Avenue? Did he lose focus as to what his diners enjoyed about the restaurant (like the free salsa bar mentioned in the comments to one of the above linked stories)? Did the food never reach the excellence of its Kenner roots?

Or are people simply not willing to pay top dollar for Mexican food?  Has the proliferation of the taco truck made it near impossible to serve chicken mole for $24? 


Rene said...

Very good questions, Peter. But until this restaurant is sold to a third party and Peters is gone, I will wager we will see another iteration of his ideas in the near future.

Which will be followed by a well-publicized story that the new _______ is closing.

$1.25 said...

I'm pretty sure that the high cost of the meals have something to do with it. Even prior to the proliferation of Taco trucks and so forth, the price tag simply didn't match the food. I don't think that is a combo suffered lightly by the natives.

My guess is the rent/renovations on that huge building in a prime location were too much.

jshushan said...

It was the renovation cost. The building has been quietly on the market for several million dollars for years now. I think he bitterly regrets leaving the Kenner location.

Celeste said...

I am a big fan of his cooking, but location is an important consideration in a restaurant's success. While in Kenner, I was (at least) a twice-a-month patron--it was easily the best food within 15 minutes of my house, and the menu encompassed both taqueria-style items and more ambitious entrees. Thus, a group could find options at many pricing points, I could dip in for a quick couple of cochinita pibil tacos in mid-afternoon, or a celebratory group could go all-out with grilled lobsters, flash-fried whole flounder, or one of the wonderful, ever-changing specials. (And Stacy the super-waitress always remembered your name and your favorites.)

I went two or three times after he relocation, but it wasn't the same. If I'm driving all the way to the St. Charles location, my nearby dining options are stellar--so his competition increased fifty-fold. And separating the fine-dining operation from the taqueria was a bad idea: menu favorites from the old location were not available side-by-side any longer. I wanted the humble taqueria starters alongside the "fancier" entrees, and the two separate kitchens refused to accomodate any sort of upstairs-downstairs menu recombination.

In Kenner, he could see the entire operation at a glance, so he didn't need highly trained staff--he could correct things on the fly. The larger St. Charles Ave staff never seemed to be interested or enthusiastic....

Man, I want a cochinita pibil taco w/pickled onions something bad right now. And some sangria, and maybe one of those lamb-stuffed chile rellenos w/fruit sauce.

Anonymous said...

To me this guy's the Obama of the New Orleans restaurant scene. "We're all too stupid to appreciate his greatness."

I never went to the place in Kenner but the St Charles location was an unmitigated disaster from the get go. There seemed to be very little interest in customer satisfaction and a big interest in exalting Guillermo. Well, his food sucks. It's like everyone said "let's be nice to this guy." even though he is arguably one of the worst restauranteurs in recent memory.