I’m always a little surprised at the elaborateness of some of the downtown establishments, especially those that seem to be trying to attract a younger clientele (read: partying 20-somethings on the prowl for sex). Several venues are bigger, splashier and even downright luxe, at least more than you would think necessary. And that’s a good thing, I suppose.
I just wish more of them spent more time concentrating on the food they serve. You know, for those of us past 20 who are on the prowl for something palatable to eat.
I was encouraged at first with my initial bite of carne asado tacos from Don Jefe’s Tequila Parlour, one of the newer establishments on the well-lubricated stretch of Church Street between Orange Avenue and Interstate 4. The tacos were served in warm, soft tortillas with almost-melted white cheddar cheese and grilled onions. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of the flat iron steak, but what was there was good, and I liked the piquant chimichurri that was served with the tacos.
Then I took a bite of the pork tamale. I try not to use extremes when I describe something but I can’t avoid it here: this was the worst tamale I’ve ever unwrapped from a corn husk. (I do need to make that distinction because I still remember my first tamale, which, as a young person from the Midwest newly living in the Southwest, I failed to unwrap. You only make that mistake once.) Don Jefe’s tamales were severely dry, with the cornmeal an unnatural dark brown, as though singed. Any pork inside was barely detectable.
They got me on the menu item labeled “chicken wings confit.” Confit, of course, generally refers to meats, usually duck or goose, preserved in their own fat. How interesting, I thought, to apply that process to lowly chicken wings. But that process was not applied, according to my server. These were no more than your standard, run-of-the-mill (or coop, if you will) hot wings.
Perhaps by calling them confit the management thought it could get away with charging $7.50 for seven wings or drummies. (As it turns out, they did get away with it.) But then they felt no need to justify the prices of the other items: $12 for three tacos and $8.50 for two tamales.
Does it matter at this point that service was good? Or that the atmosphere is expansive and tasteful? Or that it looks like a fun place to meet someone and have a drink, especially if you appreciate a bar menu with dozens of tequila options? I suppose it might if you’re one of the younger party set. But even they have to eat.
Don Jefe’s Tequila Parlour is at 41 W. Church St., Orlando. It is open for lunch, dinner and late night daily. Here is a link to the website, where you can see the other outrageously priced menu items. The phone number is 407-203-0873.