On a crisp weekend day I ventured into the world of Guavate Puerto Rican Eatery on the Alafaya corridor. The tropical entrance to this restaurant entices as anything in warm climates…..vibrant and cool….a nice place to hang, relax, enjoy friends, and good food.
The entrance gave way to a very vibrant, tropical bustling little place. Tables and chairs seemed like they were on top of each other, but that’s a cozy feel, right? As a newer establishment, the interior matched the exterior and surrounding area, upper scale, with a neighborly feel. Moderately modern with hints of the tropics.
Upon entrance we were greeted by the proverbial sign “Please wait to be seat”. Okay, where was the greeter??? After a short time a hand gesture. I guess “follow”. So we followed. We were shown to a table in front of the drink, sandwich, and general server hang out station. The menu was a dirty laminated piece of paper. As we scanned the menu, a server approached and greeted us in Spanish. Our extremely limited Spanish vocabulary could not comprehend. We replied in English. She insisted in Spanish.
The menu was extensive with all the usual suspects of a Latin style restaurant. Caution: No Lunch menu on Saturdays. Since it was lunch time and the dinner portions seemed very large we decided to try some appetizers and then take it from there. Surtido Aperitivos de Carne (pastelillitos de carne, alcapurrias de carne, rellenos de papas, chicharrones de pollo) Assorted meat appetizers (meat turnovers, root vegetables fritters, potato balls and chicken cracklings). All of these items were overcooked to sharp crispness. The kind of crispness that rips the insides of your mouth. Sorrullitos de Maîz Little deep-fried sweet cornmeal fritters. This item was bland and tasteless, like a little sponge soaked with stale oil. Mofongo de Platano Verde Green plantain mofongo. The pork in here was old and hard, the plantains were not mashed together hence they all fell apart. Pasteles Grated root vegetables stuffed with pork. Finally, a good item, nicely grounded, flavors blended well together. After eating these items my stomach felt like it had just ingested 1 pint of stale cooking oil. Needless to say we did not go further.
One of the cornerstones of being able to enjoy ethnic dining, or any dining, is to feel welcome. Somehow, we did not get that feeling here . Was it the language barrier of our server, was it the constant disappearing act, was it the avoidance of eye contact with any other attendants in the restaurant, was it the non refill of our ice teas? Was it the little girl’s pink headband left on the table before we sat? Was it the whisper of my dining companion, “Oh, oh, don’t look like they like us here?” Who can tell….needless to say…..