In a desperate attempt to fulfill the "X" requirement while keeping with my food theme (and in recognition of the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration), I will be doing a review of a Mexican restaurant I've never visited. I will base my review on the same criteria that I would use to decide if I wanted to visit it as a customer. I will view their website, menu and check the reviews of others who have been there already. That restaurant is Xochitl Restaurant in Philadelphia.
Xochitl is located in Society Hill on 2nd St at Pine south of the Historic Old City section of Philadelphia, only a block West of Front Street and I-95 and less than two blocks north of the famous South Street. They are located in one of the many red brick row homes that line 2nd Street.
Dinner is served from 5PM until midnight, but the bar remains open until 2AM. They offer Happy Hour seven days a week from 5PM to 7PM, but also have a late night Happy Hour Thursday - Saturday from 10PM until midnight in their lounge area.
Looking at their menu, I see right away that I'm not going to be attending any time soon. Their prices appear to be rather steep. Chicharrones (pork rinds to you and me) are $8 and come with radish, mint and salsa verde. Arroz con Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken and Rice) is $18 and Cachete Puerco (Pig's Cheeks) $19. Their three-course Prix Fixe option is $32 per person and must be ordered for the entire table. I realize that prices are generally higher in Society Hill, but I think their prices are pretty high for being so close to a major highway that runs along the entire Eastern seaboard.
There also aren't too many things on the menu that I would be willing to order (see the above Pig's Cheeks). I understand that Mexican Food is more than tacos, tamales and burritos, but they seem to be ignoring the mid-level cuisine options. Sure, they have tamales on the menu, but they are filled with spinach and chayote (Alligator Pear squash) rather than pork, beef or chicken. I'm not knocking vegetarian cuisine, but if that happens to be the only thing on the menu I recognize, I might be turned off by the filling. Their tostadas are topped with seafood ceviche. There is octopus as an appetizer. Their target customer base seems to be very upscale; those with more refined palates or more money or those who want to appear to have refined palates and more money. I am none of the above.
As for the reviews of former customers, they are mixed. The two most recent (both at the end of April) have nothing but raves for the food, the service and the ambiance. The guacamole is apparently a huge hit and is made fresh at tableside. I can see that being a definite plus. You know without a doubt that you are getting only the freshest of ingredients in your guacamole. Interestingly, both customers ordered the Salmon entree ($22) and found it to exceed their expectations. I see that as a plus as well.
Two other customers in April gave mediocre reviews, one saying she was "underwhelmed". She had based her expectations on the fact that she'd eaten at two other restaurants owned by the same people, neither of which is a Mexican restaurant. I'm not sure in what way she was attempting to compare a Barbecue restaurant with Mexican, but she says they ordered the brisket and the ribs. There's no way I could compare brisket cooked Mexican style to brisket cooked for barbecue. As for the ribs, the menu I've been looking at has no ribs to offer, so maybe she's getting her locales mixed up.
The other mediocre review was disappointed that the restaurant wasn't as "fun" as she'd anticipated and was quiet. What little I know of Society Hill tells me that a place that parties and is noisy just wouldn't be accepted, so I don't know if she thought that proximity to South Street should account for something or what.
The one common denominator, though, in every review I read (except one) was the exuberant kudos for the guacamole. None claimed bad service and only two were unhappy with the food. One had a problem with the "incongruity" of showing sports on TVs above the bar in an otherwise ethnic restaurant. I can concur with that one. Another one said the food was bland. Overall, though, the reviews were good to great about both the food and the service. Even the octopus earned a high five.
So, even though I sincerely doubt I'll ever get there, if an opportunity presents itself (such as a deep discount coupon), I'm going to have to try them out. Parking in Philly is insane, but it can be done.