Deep down, Pete Wells, like many New Yorkers, is afraid of Texans. "I have no desire to mess with them. I can read the bumper stickers," he says in his review of perennially packed but critically panned Tex-Mex hot spot Javelina. So clever Pete disguises his blows behind a string of backhanded compliments. It's like the fake-nice version of his evisceration of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar back in 2012.
Nearly everything, from food to service to drinks misses the mark: "Fresh or frozen, the margaritas have a slight chemical taste that I was thankful for because it tended to keep my own alcohol intake to near-Mormon levels." And then there's the fact that on one night, Wells $13 Paloma is in a much larger glass than his female dining companion's $13 Paloma – "Everybody knows women drink less than men, so we appreciated the thoughtfulness."
Meanwhile, the signature Tex-Mex dish, queso, arrives lukewarm. Thank goodness, says Wells: "The cooler temperature offers the added benefit of allowing a latex-like film to congeal on top, which provides an interesting contrast in texture with the liquefied cheese below."
The small saving graces at Javelina?
Puffy tacos, a San Antonio specialty, come out well, with bits of pork shoulder...The steak enchiladas are good, too, with a mouthwatering sour-cream sauce all around them. The cilantro-cream gravy around mahi-mahi is comfortingly thick and rich, and the fajitas are just what you'd expect them to be, with one difference: The flour tortillas are outstanding.