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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Keep your Gram & Dun, I'll have Zocalo, thanks

A few weeks ago, for my birthday, a friend took me to the newish restaurant (there are a few) Gram and Dun. It's located in the former Baja 600 space, which I--and everyone, it seems--love. And why wouldn't we? It's got that great patio and, good weather or bad, the restaurant looks out over it and Brush Creek. Sure, you can't see the creek but it's an expanse of green in the city so it's a nice change.

And I had a nice meal.

It was good. Heck, it was even tasty. It was their "crispy smoked chicken." It came with something they called "Texaz Red Rice."

Cute, huh? I hate cute.

I'm happy it's a local restaurant, locally-owned. That helps. I love supporting local restaurants, restauratuers and businesses, period. It's just that this time, I was underwhelmed and it was underwhelming, with a bit of a high price, to boot.

Anyway, the food was good. Actually, it was okay. It was not memorable. It was dependable but didn't really rock my world, as I had expected since I'd heard so much good to great about this new restaurant. The ultimate result was that I came away disappointed.

I'd go back but only for cocktails on the patio in that window of time when we have good weather.

So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later (this weekend, actually), I went to the newish Zocalo Mexican restaurant in the former Mi Cucina space. (Is every new restaurant in town replacing an older Mexican restaurant?).

I always enjoyed Mi Cocina for two reasons. First, it was Mexican food that wasn't the same old, same old (think Southwest Boulevard) and it had a terrific tortilla soup. It was made of a clear chicken broth with chunks of chicken and avocado and so forth. I loved it.

So then, I went to this Zocalo.


Now here's some different, fresh, wonderful food.

And you know what?

It even costs less--far less--than Gram & Dun.

And I wasn't set out to have anything about either experience be about price, either, let me be clear.

I had what they call the chicken tinga tacos and wow, I say again (forgive me), were they good.

Very fresh with big strips of red onion and very fresh, made-that-day salsa with a corn tortilla that makes these taquitos taste so great.

Then, to make things even better, they came with killer black beans.

These are not your everyday, I-can-get-these-anywhere black beans, either, by a long shot. They were extremely flavorful with just a hint of spicy heat. Perfect for the people who need it spicy but not too for the other kind who don't want much spice at all. Really, just outstanding. And for nearly half the price of the chicken at G & D., not forgetttable at all, by any means.

So, sure, Gram & Dun has that great location and patio but now, here's this terrific food at Zocalo and, heck, they've added the big glass doors they can open in good weather, along with outside seating so it makes for great people-watching, in an effort to keep up other place's views.

So there you are. If you find yourself on the Plaza, looking for somewhere to eat and either like or haven't had Mexican food recently, keep in mind Zocalo. If you want, spend more money and get the bigger and/or more expensive entree's. It's just a quick, easy block from Gram & Dun and I think you'll come away far satisfied.

You may even have more money in your pocket when you leave, too.


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