Much has already been said about the newly opened Valle of Mexico in South Buffalo. In short: the food is fantastic and authentic, and the service and availability of menu options leaves something to be desired. We decided to give it a try a few nights ago, and what transpired was without a doubt the most surreal––terrible, uncomfortable––restaurant experience any of us have ever been through. The food we ended up being able to try was really great––but was it worth it? In order to give an idea of how our nearly two-hour long ordeal transpired, below is a rough timeline of events. You might notice that the emphasis is not on the food we ate––that would be because it played a shockingly small role in our night.
6:25 pm: We arrive at Valle of Mexico. About four tables are occupied, and we are asked where we would like to be seated. I point to the only table left with more than two seats (we were a party of three) which happens to be in the corner by the window.
6:31 pm: A busser (?) comes out of the kitchen and asks where we plan to sit. I motion again to the corner table and he clears the table of dirty dishes and sets down a few menus. The table is not really clean, but we sit down anyway.
6:40 pm: Our waitress––the same woman who first greeted us––comes over and asks what we’d like to order. We’d figured out our orders by that time, so we order the following: a triple order of vegetarian tacos ($7.50), two tacos al pastor ($5), one carnitas taco ($2.50), one carne asada taco ($2.50), and an entreé order of mole poblano ($12). We tried to order a variety of drinks, but most were out of stock so we ordered a few mango juices ($3). A couple that had entered after us had already been seated and somehow received chips and salsa while we had not, so we also asked for those.
6:55 pm: We flag the waitress over to ask what’s going on and she says that the woman in the kitchen forgot to put down chips in the fryer, and that they may or may not come out. We suspect that if we had not asked, she would have just ignored them completely. We still have not received water or our drinks yet, so I ask if the restaurant is BYOB. She says yes, so I walk across the street and purchase the only decent bottle of wine I can find, a Malbec.
7:05 pm: I get back to the restaurant and nothing has changed. However, our waitress/server is sitting at a table with her purse over her arm. She then gets up, exclaims to the restaurant that “no one will be gettin’ any food tonight, just water (which, incidentally, we had never even received),” and proceeds to storm out while slamming the door behind her.
7:06 pm – 7:10 pm: Confusion.
7:15 pm: We notice the busser from earlier bring a dish out to a couple that had been waiting for their food since we arrived. They took one look at it and left the restaurant, shaking their heads, before the dish was even set down. The chef/owner then begins making rounds and asking what we ordered; the waitress apparently left with our order before giving it to the kitchen. We recanted our order (leaving out the drinks) and also asked for a corkscrew.
7:20 pm: The busser comes by and we ask for a corkscrew and three glasses once again. He delivers, and we begin drinking.
7:25 pm: A woman enters the restaurant asking for her job interview. She will spend the next 45 minutes standing at the bar waiting on her phone.
7:40 pm: Our food comes out. No chips and salsa. Megan’s vegetarian tacos are lacking salsa and sour cream so it’s taken back to the kitchen for a moment. I receive three tacos al pastor which is not really what I ordered but I’m in no mood to complain.
7:41 pm – 7:55 pm: We eat, and it’s good. Megan enjoyed her vegetarian tacos, which came with a mix of zucchini and broccoli, but said they were no better or worse than those from Lloyd Taco Truck––and food from Lloyd takes a matter of minutes, not hours. My tacos al pastor were quite excellent. I loved the intoxicating spice level, tender pork, and supple corn tortilla. Our friend Alicia’s mole poblano was the highlight of the night, its complex and so clearly freshly made sauce covering very tender chicken, extraordinarily creamy beans, and proper Mexican rice. It was served with corn tortillas, and we all raved about it. About halfway through, though, I had to walk to the back of the restaurant and grab a bottle of water out of the soda case; we were really dehydrated and in need of water to counteract the spiciness of the food, and it had been evident for some time that we were never going to be served water.
8:00 pm: We were in a rush to leave and noticed that there was a queue for the bill; we saw one table wait over 20 minutes for theirs. Not willing or able to deal with that process, we brought a couple twenties up to our tireless busser/waiter/cook and wished him good luck. He seemed extremely appreciative and even surprised that we were paying at all.
So, after all that, would we go back again? It’s a question we’re not sure we can answer for ourselves, let alone our readers. The food really is terrific, and it’s probably worth going to at least once. However, it’s absolutely absurd to undergo such an ordeal and wait for food that you may not even be able to order, or that you may end up not receiving for no particular reason. Valle of Mexico has been open for a couple of months now, and the level of service they continue to put out is still deplorable. But the food is good…
Valle of Mexico is located at 1586 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14220.