Monday, August 15, 2011

The “new” Juanita’s in the River Market – Where you get a little for a lot.

614 President Clinton Blvd., Little Rock


The “new” Juanita’s Café & Bar moved this summer from its long-time location on South Main Street to its new incarnation in the River Market. In a curious decision that may indicate where the restaurant owners think their best opportunities for profit lie, the restaurant is downstairs and the live music venue upstairs and a straight shot from the street.

The “old” Juanita’s went through many, many changes over the years, and seemed to have lost its way during that time. It went from Little Rock’s premier live music venue and a middle-of-the-road Tex-Mex restaurant to a middle-of-the-road live music venue and middle-of-the-road, but overpriced, Tex-Mex eatery. Not a good path.

The food at the new place is about what it was at the Main Street location. A friend of mine and I went today and I was very underwhelmed. I had the special (the inaptly-named “Fiesta plate” with taco, which used to be on the menu but was curiously absent even though it’s listed as Monday’s regular “special”). My friend had a single enchilada, rice and beans. We shared a cheese dip, chips and both had iced tea. Total tab before tip: $26.88.

Now friends, that seems a bit steep for what I estimated to be food costs that amounted to less than $3 for both of us. And, I think I’m being generous, at that. Tex-Mex food is some of the cheapest to prepare in the food biz, so I felt as though the “new” Juanita’s had successfully got into my pocket for way more than I got out of the deal. I know the recent heat has made me very cranky, but still …. This was greedy.

On top of all that, the service was poor. One guy seemed to be rushing around trying to do everything, while three others sort of stood back content to let him do it. Oh, yeah, one of these “bystanders” did manage to drop a tray of dishes on the floor, so I guess that was something. The only time our waiter was really attentive was when he quickly brought our bill to the table. Got to love that.

I don’t wish ill will on many folks, but I don’t see a rosy future for this new Juanita’s. The service is bad. The food is very mediocre. And, you get to pay a lot for the privilege of eating there. But, I’ve been wrong many times before. The continued, counter-intuitive success of the bilious Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro and its lowest-common-denominator approach to food service is a great example of my faulty judgment. So give that some thought, too.


At 10:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I've given them two tries in the new location. Ironically, we received the same waitress during both trips. She is not very waitressy type and should find a new line of work. As far as the food goes, the cheese dip was the best thing. The most dissatisfied of us was one of my friends who ordered the chicken empanada. She said there was more breading than chicken. I saw it...she wasn't lying. Personally, I was thankful that a had a change of heart when ordering my food because I almost got the same thing. That's not saying much as my fish taco wasn't much to write home about.

Needless to say, it will be many a year before I return....if at all.


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