I really wanted to like El Jefe when the Cute Gardener took me there on the hunt for a pile of nachos and a kick off to my birthday margarita this past weekend in the desert. We had been hankering for a visit after hearing the hype about the new bar, located in the newly refurbished Saguaro Hotel with Iron Chef Jose Garces at the helm. I was excited about the idea of a funky watering hole where you could buy Mexican street food specialties like goat and tongue tacos until the wee hours of the night; a novelty in the desert where convenient food choices narrow down as the evenings grow old.
We went at an odd time for sure, around four in the afternoon between other plans. I love a good plate of nachos so was looking for something special. We ordered the skirt steak version, which came with tangy chile de arbol but the steak was really just shredded short ribs and the sparse portions of it plain unimpressive. A pile of thin and flimsy chips arrived topped with lots of hardened cheese but little of the other promised good parts made up the dish.
The drinks in a bar offering hundreds of tequila choices were also quite dim, not flavorful at all and almost watered down.
Then we ordered shrimp and chorizo tacos, which came in a portion of three small ones. The shrimp was undercooked, the chorizo bland, and the overall textures all blended together in a soft pile of mush.
There were two wait staff personnel “on” the floor while we were there and they admittedly didn’t even know each other’s names, nor did they make haste to clean up after a drunken women flung her glass off one of the communal bar tables, which shattered everywhere and sat for at least ten minutes.
I guess the bottom line is I was looking for dancing on the bar top, down and dirty charred meats and clinking glasses rimmed with salt in a place that is really only a glistening mirage in an otherwise desert oasis.