It’s a shame that the only passable Mexican restaurant in South Brooklyn shuttered last year, but I must admit that I always turned to other neighborhoods when in need of a taco so I wasn’t exactly a El Huipil loyalist. (I also just noticed that I only gave them 1.5 shovel, which was kind of harsh. Maybe I've grown into a softie because now I tend to give even mediocre places 2 shovels.)
Now the space houses Viva, more in a Tex-Mex vein. I’m inclined to think that the new proprietors aren’t Mexican—black beans and yellow rice feel more Caribbean and the back page of the menu lists “Latin” food—but I’m hardly an ethnicity detective. And it’s not like the clientele, seemingly made up of non-Hispanic families with lots of kids and locals looking for cheap takeout, care who’s cooking their chimichanga. The fact that we had to ask for salsa, suspiciously absent from the table, was also telling.
I’ve been exploring western Carroll Gardens and Red Hook a lot lately. I like the area and I’m frequently too lazy to leave 11231. We wanted to drive by the Ikea (and peek at an overpriced house for sale on Van Brunt Street) and get the crap scared out of us. There’s no way I was setting foot on the property opening weekend, but we wanted to witness some mayhem. The parking lot had filled and cars were backed up in all directions despite traffic cops. On the short drive from our apartment to Ikea we witnessed I don’t know how many wrong turns down one-way streets, general scared confusion and pleas for directions.
I’m not anti-car, obviously, but people shouldn’t be allowed on the road if they have absolutely no idea where they are, where they’re going or how to follow signs. I thought everyone had GPSs and we were just too cheap to spring for modern navigation devices. And that was just outside. Poor drivers make even worse pedestrians so I can only imagine the trouble inside those blue and yellow walls.
I perked back up after seeing the handwritten “$1.99 margarita with entrée” scrawled on Viva’s brief paper menu. This turned out to be a strong drink (yes, I equate strong with good). I prefer my beverages on the rocks rather than blended, which wasn’t an option, but apparently frozen cocktails are now all the rage so they were ahead of the curve.
Chicken enchiladas were perfectly adequate, no complaints. However, I’m not sure why the waitress warned me that they come topped with melted cheese. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Clearly, there have been lactose-adverse complainers in the past. The one thing I’ve never understood about Tex-Mex restaurants–at least in the North because I’ve never been to Texas–is why filling choices are usually limited to chicken, ground beef and cheese. Where’s the pork?
Viva * 116 Sullivan St., Brooklyn, NY