July 23, 2014

Just follow the sign and look for the pink building.
This is how you open a new restaurant.

The first month Mouth of the South opened, I was impressed that they appeared to be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. (And you've gotta love when places live up to expectations and overcome challenges like broken AC in Omaha summers).

Keep on growing, little delicious herbs.

The interior.
Perusing the pictures and reviews on Facebook before my first visit, the culmination of less than 5 days worth of actual operation (building on a weeks' soft open) looked too good to be true. Craft cocktails, southern style comfort food with a bit of flair, and a window herb garden in hanging mason jars?

Sign me up.

I've been thrice now and I severely enjoyed all three times. They were all different days and times too, so I got a nice variety of experiences.

First up, an early dinner on a Saturday afternoon back in May. I sampled my way through a Cajun Lemonade (vodka with pimms, lemonade, hot sauce and sierra mist). Yes, strange but good. They have lots of interesting drink options. From the early menu, some offerings included: the Southern Sunset, Kentucky Mule, Southern Iced Tea, Creole Kiss, Louisianna Thyme, and the Chocolate Cherry Cha Cha.

For appetizers, we started with Boudin Balls (sausage!) with remoulade sauce and Gizzards (pepper jelly sauce!). Hands down, best gizzards I've ever had.

Boudin Balls
Gizzards with pepper jelly glaze!
Then, I rounded out the gut-busting meal with a pulled pork sandie (slaw on top, of course) and a cup of gumbo.

Pulled Pork Sandie and Gumbo
Apparently I wanted to try everything in a single visit... but turns out there was still plenty to come back for.

Our second was in June on a Sunday for lunch, and I went for the Cajun Burger with andouille, tasso ham, gruyere cheese and - again - remoulade. For $8.50, it was a LOT of meal for the money. But why stop there? We also had the Crab Dip, which included lump meat, poblano and cheese gratin.

Crab Dip. (Order two).
No shortage of flavors here folks. The only issue with the crab dip is I that wanted moooooooore. Would've easily taken down the whole Dip myself but was unfortunately forced to share. Obviously we also had gizzards too.

When it came time to maw the burger, I barely made it through the sandwich and was sad to have to leave some of the thinly sliced breaded onion rings behind as well. Side options include the aforementioned hand cut and battered onion rings, french fries or sweet potato fries. OR, for another $1.50 you can upgrade to gumbo, soup of the day, salad or red beans and rice.

Cajun Burger - pretty perfect.
Give me a mason jar of water and I'm happy.
My most recent visit was Wednesday lunch, and I had my entree all planned out ahead of time: Mahi Tacos (blackened), with slaw, comeback sauce, & cilantro. Because it's summer and you just can't eat enough tacos in the summer! Sweet tea also really hit the spot also.

Oh, but what is 'comeback sauce' you ask?

No worries, I had to look it up as well. "Comeback sauce is a dipping sauce for fried foods or as a salad dressing in the cuisine of central Mississippi.Similar to Louisiana remoulade, the base of the sauce consists of mayonnaise and chili sauce."  Thanks Wikipedia!

So... remoulade-esque. At least I'm consistent.

To complete the trifecta, yes, again... bring on the gizzards. Nom Nom Nom Nom.

Gizzards, take three.
Mahi tacos. Not the best thing they have going, IMO.
And while I probably wouldn't order the tacos again, even now, I'm plotting my return.

Next up? Smokestack burger with dill chips? Yellowfin tuna sandwich? Wings with a bucket of beer? Maybe some GIZZARDS? (What is wrong with me...?)

On the topic of plating, I don't understand the switch from paper lined baskets to salad-lined plates. Maybe this is because I feel compelled to eat lettuce instead of wasting it as a garnish - and because that just doesn't work out well in this case. Or maybe waste is what this is about and the paper-lined baskets are somehow cost prohibitive? (In which case, there has to be some type of reusable platter or dish that would be better suited to gizzards than a lettuce plate). The baskets seemed to match the tone of the restaurant more and I hope to see them again sometime. Fingers crossed on this one.

Also, the gumbo has been updated. Honestly, I think I preferred the older iteration, which was a bit creamier. But at least the gizzards have stayed consistent. Apparently I'd come back for those alone... which is strange, since I NEVER think to order gizzards anywhere else. (Though I can see a trend emerging here).

Anyway, enough about my sudden strange gizzard fetish.

Mouth of the South is great. Yes, perhaps it's not what some would prefer, or expect, but they do what they do pretty darn well. Also, now they do offer reservations also for parties of 4 or more, but keep in mind that it's it's a small space and establishment. There's only one 'low' table also. Some things you just have to roll with.

Anyway, there's no chance I won't return. Boom. Double negative out.

Mouth of the South on Urbanspoon

July 19, 2014

I really try to wait out new restaurants for a while before visiting but the 20+ glowing reviews of MULA lured me in early... Unfortunately. And now, as I sit down to write what will undoubtedly be called a rant by some, I find myself a little suspicious of some reviews as well.

Out of the 25 current reviews, the 4 Elites (5 now, including myself) have an aggregate rating of 2.2. There are 6 glowing reviews currently filtered out by the suspicious Yelp robots. And over half of the 5-star reviewers have 3 or less total reviews.

Now, I have heard good things from people I actually know. But the ratings are so all over the board it'll be interesting to see how this pans out with time.

As for me, MULA is currently tied for biggest restaurant letdown of the summer. Out of all of the items we sampled last night, nothing would draw me back. Right now I'm even struggling for something I could call my "favorite"... Probably the chips? Or the drinks. Those were some pretty stout craft cocktails (but for $10 I'd certainly hope so).

Perhaps part of the problem is that I just don't subscribe to the trend of fancy Mexican restaurants? When I can get tacos, tortas and the like with 10x the flavor at 1/2 the price - or less - from a dozen plus other restaurants by driving only 5 more minutes... What's MULA bringing to the table for me?

Besides, literally, the following:

Jalapeno Business Mula (mule) - with house-infused tequila, cucumber, peppers and ginger beer. This was absolutely refreshing, and hands-down the best thing I had at Mula. Is it good enough to go back for solo though?

Mez Jackson Coctele - with vida organic mezcal, Mexican reserve brandy and fresh orange. Tasted like smoked citrus... in a good way. 

Elote Mexicano - not something I would have ordered probably, and still somehow it managed to not meet my expectations. The corn was charred, yes. But it was only luke-warm and really pretty cumbersome to eat, which I wouldn't expect here. 

Chicaronnes - the description reads, "pork belly" and that's literally what it was. But I've been noticing recently a disturbing trend that continued here. All fat. And in this case, it wasn't even really that charred. Yes, I realize that pork belly is nearly all fat... but there's a pretty significant difference between 92% fat and 100% fat. This was a dislike.

Queso Flameado - going back through our pictures, I forgot we had this. Then I remembered it tasted mostly like beans and pumpkin... neither of which have the kick of the ancho chilis I was hoping for. Chips were good though. 

Huevo con Chorizo -  time for a Scotch Egg themed rant. 

Last time I checked you can get a top of the line local, free range, organic egg for less than $0.50. Add in a dollars worth of chorizo and the the remaining $5 is... Labor? If there were two eggs for that price, I would consider ordering the XX again, because scotch egg with chorizo is an idea long past due. But in its current state of affairs it's just proportionately too pricey.

Salsa Flight - as the menu reads... charred pineapple (mango, habanero, vanilla bean, mint), roasted tomato (pumpkin seed, spring onion), tomatillo (avocado, serrano, cilantro). as the flavor profile lingers in my memory... pineapple? plain tomato. actually decent.

Carnitas Torta - this was the biggest fail of the evening, for me. The carnitas are described as 'Coca-Cola-braised Michoacan pork'... That probably should have been a clue to not order. In my humble opinion, the only place for Coke in Mexican food is when it comes from the ice bin of a truck in a glass bottle. This was one of those rare occasions where I forego the bun and went for the fillings only, but the meat itself seemed dry and way too sweet. They did comp this off the check, but it was handled a bit strangely.

Tacos - Al Pastor and Baja Fish for me. Neither were really exciting. Again, I try not to make comparisons, but for $2.50 I can think of at least a half dozen places I'd rather eat tacos - some of which are the best in town. The heavy metal tray these came on was my favorite part.

Re-reading the menu now, it all sounds great... in theory. The execution just wasn't on point.

All that being said, service was top-notch and I would be willing to maybe try again in a few months if the reviews stay positive. There were some other drinks I still need to try, after all... like house Horchata!

Now on the topic of money... I'd be happy to shell out the $80 we spent on dinner for myself (and have done so before happily) if the eats are amazing.

The food just wasn't.

The interior is great, service was friendly, location is VERY appealing as the Farnam Street corridor comes alive. Though without great food, I can't say I'll be frequenting Mula.

Even though it seems unfair, you can't ignore the fact that there is a wealth of amazing Mexican food to be had only 3 miles from here. So if it sounds like maybe you're in the same camp as me, I'd encourage you to check out one of the many other options for local, family-run establishments where the food is (in my opinion), superior in flavor. Your wallet will thank you also.

MULA Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon