Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
81° F Dallas, TX

Restaurant Review: Trece in Dallas


My recent meal at Trece was, oh let’s just start by with calling it memorable. The confusing experience started with the valet and ended with a huge scene with management over the bill. In between, we drank average wine, overpriced cocktails, and mediocre food. Needless to say, I will never return. Jump for my full report.

The guy at the valet stand wanted payment before he parked our car. Why are we paying for this before the service was completed, I thought? The valet explained that his boss told him to get the money in advance. We watched as he drove off with our money and our car.

We entered and gave our name to the hostess who asked if we wanted to wait for the rest of our party to arrive. We are all here, we explained. How many were you expecting, I asked? The woman at the stand looked down at her book and didn’t seem to know. But she didn’t care, and waved us off to someone to show us to a table.

Once seated, a waiter appeared and asked if we would like still or sparkling water. “Trinity River,” I said. He looked at me quizzically, obviously unaware of the subtle topography of Dallas. Tap water, I explained, to his evident relief. Why is a waiter asking me what kind of water I want and not including simple tap water in the list? I smelled an upsell.

Then came the cocktail enquiry. I asked if there was a wine list and our waiter explained that it was being re-worked and they currently only serve wines by the glass. When I asked which wines they were pouring he recited varietals. “Do these Chardonnays and Pinot Noir have names associated with them?” I asked. Obviously shaked he uttered, “Carneros Creek.” I guess most Trece customers are easily amused with wine or they come for the pricey cocktails. We settled on a small Pisco Sour  and Mojito (both $10) Both were anemic and too sweet. The “house Marguerita,” listed at $8 on the menu showed up as $10 on the bill. (Don’t conclude that this was an oversight, we will see such oversights happen again.) The drink was utterly devoid of a tequila kick. Just a gooey slush.

While we ordered, chips and salsa arrived. The hemophiliac salsa appeared to be water colored with green dye (Trinity River?). The chips were stale. Those same chips (equally stale) showed up on my plate when I ordered Cocktail Camarones ($12) as an appetizer. They occupied around 70% of the plate. The cocktail was an average blend of shrimp, fish, cilantro, and tomato but far from large. I paid less that $8 for the same dish at Paraiso the previous week and it was much better. The crab cake appetizer ($11) consisted of three diminutive cakes which tasted of binder (gypsum board?) not crab. The guacamole salad I didn’t taste, but our table friends pronounced it just okay. It was supposed to be prepared tableside, which led us to think that we would see some kind of show. Instead, the waiter who made it disappeared around the back of another table to do the mixing.

The main courses continued the “Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity” (to misquote a well-known car maker’s slogan). The Pollo Poblano ($19) consisted of around four ounces of dry chicken. Tablones ($23), aka short ribs, were absolutely bland. Apparently nobody cared enough to check the seasoning. There was no salt or pepper on the table to ameliorate the situation, either. And no way had the kitchen made a one-off error. I am currently eating a taco marathon across town, so I ordered the two tacos with rice and beans for $12. One was al pastor (pork) and the other that short rib (again). The short ribs were cooked with onions. The onions were predictably sweet but the meat, once again, was absolutely tasteless and dry. The tortilla wasn’t freshly made, and it was—wait for it–dry, leathery, and tough. Of course, there was plenty of rice. It occupied half the scratched and aging plate (all the dishware at Trece seem to be past their sell-by dates). The platter was served with black beans. At least they looked like black beans—you wouldn’t know by the flavor. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give these tacos minus 6. And how can two tacos, rice and beans cost $12? Never, has so much been spent by so many, for so little.

We skipped dessert. They may be the very best desserts in Dallas, I just don’t know. This time it is my part to not care.

The waiter presented the bill and we gave him a coupon purchased from www.restaurant.com. He disappeared to recalculate the bill and reappeared a few minutes later to ask how much the coupon was worth. Odd, it clearly said $50. When the bill reappeared, it was presented with our credit card receipts, but no original itemized bill. A quick calculation in my head didn’t jive with the price—the total seemed to be too high. I asked for the itemized bill and found that the waiter had included the tip in the bill but had left the tip section open. Shifty business.

I have been to worse places than Trece in the world, but not in Dallas/Fort Worth. However, I have never been to a place that left me feeling like I’d been ripped off. My overwhelming impression is that there is no pursuit of quality at Trece. Nobody cares. The whole game here seems to make money on the bar and cheap Tex-Mex at white tablecloth prices. In this town there is too much choice for this to succeed. The demographic targeted by Trece can go to Maximo, Urban Taco, and, soon, Abraham Salum’s Komali. Mexicophiles can choose from dozens of inexpensive but authentic Tacquerias. Trece means “thirteen.” In this case the unlucky thirteen is the consumer.