Many restaurants seem to have fall into the category where people either love them or hate them, with very few people in the middle. Claim Jumper is one such restaurant because those that love it squeal about the huge portions and those that hate it bemoan how tragic the food is, even if the portions are able to feed several people in one sitting.
My office is split right down the middle on Mi Patio, a small, Mexican eatery on the corner of 7th Avenue and Osborn Road in Central Phoenix. Mi Patio has been there for many years and I hadnt been since it opened. The restaurant sits in an odd position near an old strip mall that used to house China Doll before its move across the street next to a supermarket. Mi Patio had a great location, surrounded by markets, a popular Chinese and popular Japanese restaurants and a stones throw from Phoenix College and the Central Corridor.
Any place serving decent Mexican food could make a killing here. Unfortunately, this is where Mi Patio falls apart.
I arrived shortly after the traditional lunch hour and was greeted by a man (who I presumed was the owner or manager) yelling into the phone in Spanish at someone. When his conversation ended, he walked me to a table and handed me a menu. The interior of the building is festively decorated with everything from piñatas to beer advertisements. There was a solid contingent of regulars sitting at the bar and watching the news.
What I noticed first was how dirty the floor was. I knew it was right after a busy lunch hour, but there was refuse everywhere: empty sweetener packets, bits of tortilla chips, napkins, etc. This wasnt just underneath one table, but was all over the dining room section I was in. While I certainly wasnt expecting a full scrubbing of the floor, a simple broom and dustpan can do wonders.
My server was quick to provide me with chips and salsa and took my drink order. I opted for an Iced Tea and a glass of water. He left and returned with my beverages in moments.
In front of me was a nice sized bowl of chips and a small bowl of sauce. The chips were room temperature and my first bite was telling. The chips were stale. They had an almost rancid aftertaste to them and were more chewy than crunchy. The salsa was good, but not outstanding. It was cold and a nice mixture of tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices, but there was only a miniscule amount of (spice) heat in the mixture. At least it was fresh as opposed to the chips.
The server took my order and I went with my standard of a combo plate with a taco, tostada, cheese enchilada and rice ($7.75). As I looked at the menu, I kept seeing the term cucumber sauce written in several of the descriptions and it took me a bit to understand that Mi Patio was dabbling in Greek cuisine as well. However, I was not at all interested in the Gyro Burrito.
I tried finding at least something redeeming about the chips, but it was impossible. The entire bowl was awful. After some consideration, I knew that the problem was that the chips had been cooked days before I had lunch at Mi Patio. A few minutes passed and my server presented my meal. I immediately knew the problem at Mi Patio was one of freshness as the server didnt need a towel or potholder to handle my plate of food. There was no warning of Careful, this is a hot plate! which is routinely said at just about every other Mexican restaurant in Arizona.
I looked at my meal and was exceptionally disappointed in what I saw. Right away, I knew the tostada would be horrid. The beans were a dark brown, almost falling into the black range. This is a tale tell sign that the beans are old. They were slopped on the tortilla, spilling over into the rice and enchilada. I took a bite and then choked it down. Egads. It was terrible.
I decided to give the taco a try and opened up the shell to add some of the salsa. The meat was plentiful as was the cheese and lettuce. I bit into the taco. Clearly the cook fried the tortillas for the taco about the same time he did for the chips. It was not crunchy, but chewy. There was nothing here to save the taco either. The meat was dry. Inexcusable.
The enchilada was up next and, again, the freshness issue came into play. The tortilla was old and had a very unappetizing aftertaste. The cheese inside was not even close to being melted (which had the plate been placed in one of the large ovens like most Mexican places do this wouldnt have been a problem). The sauce was tomato sauce and chili powder mixed with garlic salt.
The rice lasted one bite because I have this natural aversion to rice that has a crunchy texture to it. It was also incredibly salty. Truly dreadful on any level.
Most of my meal remained on my plate. I simply could not stomach this mess. There was nothing here to redeem it, except possibly the salsa and the Iced Tea. Still, when I go to a restaurant a few high points dont redeem an otherwise vile meal.
Lunch, drink and tax cost me $9.95. The service was fine, but the food was deplorable. Considering the inept cooking skills, I am surprised that Mi Patio even does any business. From my experience, Mi Patio is a disaster and I suspect the owner or manager is either lazy or cheap. There is absolutely no excuse in frying your tortillas days in advance.
As I paid my bill, I could see into the kitchen and I saw what I suspected. On racks just inside the kitchen were stacks of bowls of chips, taco salad shells and large, fried shells for Mexican pizza or a cheese crisp. It looked as unappetizing as it sounds.
So, I returned to the office and thought how anyone could have a desire to eat Mexican food at Mi Patio. It was dismal. Perhaps the people who love the place are clamoring for their Greek food.
I guess I will never find out as I have no intention of ever going back.
3347 North 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85013