I can be pretty uptight about certain things, but usually I’m pretty relaxed. I’m a big believer in second chances and giving the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, when the same mistake happens consistently, one must take note.
This weekend has been great and full of family and fun. However, there was one small shadow on the whole experience. My family and I went to a restaurant that I had visited before. Nacho Hippo is mostly a tourist stop with a bit of a Tex-Mex flair. It’s a casual joint owned by a local restaurant conglomerate with a few local awards for their food. I’ll say that the food isn’t terrible. Most items on the menu do have pretty good flavor.
Unfortunately, that’s where my fondness for the place stops. Let’s start at the beginning. When you first walk in to this place, the hostess usually seats you relatively quickly. Just make sure you don’t let them seat you at the table closest to the hostess stand. Your table will be in the way of absolutely everyone going anywhere to do anything in the restaurant. The music in the place was a little quieter this time, but it was still loud enough that it’s not so easy to have a decent conversation with your dining partners.
I have never been to Nacho Hippo and had a server introduce themselves in a reasonable amount of time. Customer service doesn’t seem to be a priority when training the employees of this company. Once seated, a typical wait for a server to arrive and take your drink order here is about 10-15 minutes. Other reviews of the place tell the tale. If ordering from the bar, it’s not uncommon for the drinks to arrive well after your plate arrives at the table, apparently. If you’ve managed to have some patience and stay for the waiter to take your food order, you’ve done well. With any luck, your server will be on the ball and get your food to you while it’s still warm. We got lucky this time. Reasonably warm food was dropped off in a timely manner. That’s where our server’s attentiveness had its limit on this day. We didn’t see him again until we were almost finished with our plates. I don’t want to be bugged by an overly eager staff, but they could at least come back after a few bites and find out if my kid wants some ketchup for his fries.
The menu itself is interesting. That is, until you look at the children’s menu. There are no healthy choices for kids except for the choice of applesauce instead of fries to go with each item. I was really surprised to find that the kid tacos didn’t come with a stitch of lettuce or tomato. I know most kids are kind of picky and prefer not to eat anything green, but there are a lot of children out there that do know how to make good food choices. Maybe it is a little odd that my child selected water with lemon as his beverage, but he does know how to make good decisions about what he consumes. Why make it tough on the little guy to pick something healthy by not even offering it on the menu? I would have settled for a little garnish.
As I’ve said, the food here actually isn’t bad. However, there are some flaws in the execution. For example, a quesadilla shouldn’t be messy. I had to be careful eating mine without excess liquid and grease dripping to the floor via my elbows. Of the seven quesadillas offered, I chose the “What the Cluck” chicken version with corn and black beans with a pico de gallo that looked like it had been sitting in a buffet pan for too long. Side orders don’t automatically come with most adult entrees, so you can rack up a big bill quickly if you want to add extras. I do like restaurants that don’t overload you with food and give you a reasonable serving size, so this isn’t a big issue for me. However, looking at the amount of food you get for the price is definitely more expensive here in comparison to other establishments around here. If the service was good here, I might be willing to overlook that.
This establishment seems to be geared towards a young clientele with a penchant for sweet drinks consumed for the soul intention of getting drunk. The adult menu items are the perfect accompaniment to an evening of overindulgence at the bar. I’ve outgrown those days, but I can see where college kids with a reasonable expense account (or a trust fund) might thoroughly enjoy what’s offered. We hadn’t really perused through the drink menu, but we noticed they offered multiple sizes of margaritas like any other self-respecting Mexican restaurant would serve. As we finished our meal, we decided to order the house margarita, which our server told us was 20 ounces. It most definitely wasn’t. I don’t see fitting a bottle of soda into the glass we were served. As for the taste, this margarita left a lot to be desired. It was entirely too sweet and weak. If you’re going to call yourself a Mexican cantina, I would suggest you get the margarita right. This drink was unworthy.
Then, we got the bill. Instead of the $3 normally charged for the terrible drinks, we were charged $6 each adding insult to injury. The decision was made not to complain to management. This isn’t the sort of place where that would make a difference. They hardly expect to see you again anyway in this tourist trap. They want you to eat, drink, buy a T-shirt, and leave like every tourist that blows through town. They simply don’t care. Like most other restaurants around here, the lion’s share of profits comes from a transient population. The restaurants that last do a lot better with customer service and make it their focus during the off-season, especially. After all, it’s the locals that get them through until the hotels start getting booked again. With this location central in a major retail area, I don’t see this place needing to make any improvements to customer service. They don’t need it to make their money.
I suppose I should try to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that good help is honestly hard to find around here. With a vast majority of the jobs being service industry in the area, that’s pretty much all there is to do for work. We have no industry to speak of, so the only other job options are construction or service installation. Only a certain percentage of the population is going to be good at service. An employer looking for a good employee is easily frustrated. On the other hand, such limited business opportunities can have the same effect with bosses. This is a tough town to work in, and a good boss is hard to find. Most use you and abuse you and chase off their best employees just before they run their businesses into the ground. A few stay in business in spite of themselves. In a right-to-work state, employees don’t have any recourse from a terrible working experience either.
So, should I cut Nacho Hippo a break? I think not. Good customer service is obviously not a part of their culture and I haven’t seen it on a single visit since they opened five years ago. I used to work in this town, and I know how the business works. I expect a lot more out of a restaurant group that dominates the area with both fine dining and casual establishments. Sadly, I’ll never get what I expect out of this place. It will surely stay open in spite of itself, but I won’t be back.
If you find yourself with a craving for good Mexican cantina fare, check out my commentary on a better dining option here:
I highly recommend it, and it’s only about 4 miles down the road.