Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco - Atlanta

Cinco is a "casual yet sophisticated" Mexican restaurant with four locations in the Atlanta area.  I have only been to the Atlanta location which is on Akers Mill Rd near the Cumberland Mall. It is upscale casual with plenty of space between tables, black cloth napkins and interesting decoration.  There are two very different atmospheres within the restaurant, one darker section with mostly padded leather booths and the other an open feeling room with lots of windows, tables and chairs.

I mentioned to a friend that Cinco had one of the better Sunday brunch buffets I had been to recently, so we decided to meet our friends for brunch. My wife and I arrived first and were deeply disappointed to see a sign on the door which indicated they weren't having the brunch due to Cinco de Mayo.  We watched a couple of other couples arrive, see the sign and turn around to go elsewhere.  I called my friend to see if he wanted to go somewhere else. He said he was just pulling into the parking lot. We walked over to their truck and discussed it; we decided to stay and order off the regular lunch menu.

Walking in the door, the staff was decked out in sombreros, fake mustaches, and other dress in apparent support of the festival. It was about 1PM and the restaurant, although busy was still only a little more than half full. There were a number of younger (20's) folks out on the patio (3-4 tables) and you could hear some folks were upstairs.

We ordered "water with lemon" all around as well as a set of drinks and set ourselves to the task of looking at the menu.  When the water arrived, we were aghast.  It looked like a bunch of sippy-cups on a tray. Rather than using real glassware they switched to plastic cups "because of Cinco de Mayo." Our  "casual yet sophisticated" dining experience was quickly descending into feeling like we intruded on a  frat party.  The drinks arrived, after what seemed to be a really long time, also in plastic, beer & Bloody Mary's. There isn't much you can do a beer, but the Bloody Mary's had way too much mix for the amount of alcohol. I have had a Bloody Mary at Cinco before and it was quite acceptable but these were like they were afraid you might get sloppy drunk on one of them so to combat that they added very little, if any vodka. Those mixes are designed to be spicy with the vodka added and are over spicy when there isn't any vodka.

I often judge a Mexican restaurant on its chips and salsa and Cinco's are excellent. The salsa is a dark red with excellent flavor without being hot. The chips were fresh and did not appear to have extra salt added which is good.

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Combination Fajitas
It was nearly forty minutes between ordering the food and receiving our meal.  I ordered the combination fajitas (beef, chicken, and shrimp). The beef was over done. Some of the pieces were charred and hard. The shrimp still had the tails on them so you had to pick them apart before you could build a fajita with them.  The chicken was also overcooked and very dry. The presentation was tossed together, not the nicely cut and laid out on the bed of vegetables that I expected from previous visits (See Don T review, Jan 7, 2011).  The beans were runny and the pico was boring.  I'm not sure if the guacamole was intended to have large chunks of avocado in it or if it was just lazy preparation, I think the latter.
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Garnish for Fajitas

Service was mediocre at best. The waiter forgot to ask my wife how she wanted her beef fajitas cooked and came back and asked her about 20 minutes later how she wanted them. He didn't ask those of us with combination fajitas how we wanted our meat cooked.  Also, when my wife and I ordered refills on our Bloody Marys he served one "because he saw it was ready." That would have been fine had he served it to my wife, but he served me instead. (I'm old school - always serve the woman first.) Empty plasticware often stayed on the table after new drinks arrived.  Otherwise, the waiter was fine.  He refilled waters as needed and brought plenty of lemon slices for our use.

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Even the salsa came in a plastic cup.
As we were leaving my wife complained about their not having the brunch and that she had seen people turn around and leave when they saw the sign. One of their staff people said they knew they lose some customers dropping the brunch but wanted to focus on Cinco de Mayo.

Serving alcohol is certainly more profitable than serving food and it was clear to us that the focus at Cinco was to encourage the frat house party atmosphere rather than being the restaurant I've enjoyed previously.  Cinco needs to decide if they are going to be a casual, but elegant, restaurant or a party bar venue.

It will be a long time before we go back.

Ambiance: 4 (Clean, Spacious)
Food: 2 (See comments above)
Service: 3 (Just okay)
Price: 3 (Lunch over $10 per person)
Value: 3 (There is a lot of competition for Mexican food in the area)

Cinco Mexican Cantina on Urbanspoon

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