First of all, our trip to the Mesa Grill was meant to me a momentous occasion, so the fall was that much harder and farther. We were all going to get together for a fancy meal out that we just knew was going to be worth shelling out the relatively big bucks for. After all, isn't Bobby Flay a famous chef, a winner of culinary battles whose food always looks so shiny and good on the small screen?
Smoke and mirrors, my friends. Whatever magic the gnomish man usually spins to have deserved his reputation was absent at Mesa Grill. After the first bite it suddenly became clear why he lost so many throw downs–but we were the real losers. Flay had our money, and kept pocketing more throughout the night as we attempted to order something, anything that would excite us; a single dish to cheer up the sinking attempts at smiles around the table.
To be plain about it, the food was bland, boring, and expensive. Sides were extra and cost as much as a whole meal at Minangasli. The drinks, like the spicy margarita (which, honestly, Astrid and I had discussed like school girls days before ordering) was a stone's throw away both taste and spice-wise from something you could get at a Chili's.
The decor looks like someone fell in love with Arizona (a place filled with many restaurants better than this one) then raped and pillaged every cheesy style cliche of the region and shat it out over what was once clearly a beautiful columnated space. Those columns are now garishly painted the color of chili peppers–the same chili peppers that remained mysteriously absent from spicing up the food.
I learned a lesson that night. Places like these, with their TV personality chefs, are tourists traps (though, Otto has been my experienced exception). Why else did we get so many stares and whispers from other diners about our clothing and tattoos. I wanted to tell all the diners, look, we're in NYC, we're not weird here!
Maybe the restaurant was great once, maybe they had to change and cater to crowds who don't want their food too different from a chain restaurant but, for whatever reason, it's now just beat. The most disappointing dining experience of the year.