Barely Brunch At Mextopia

There are only four items on the Mextopia brunch menu. The restaurant itself sits on the presently blighted block of Lower Greenville Avenue, the block where after the apocalypse, it'll just be that 7-Eleven and the Simply Fondue and maybe one guy with a keg in the burned ruins of the Libertine still in operation. At prime brunch hour, even with a shady patio, Mextopia had only three tables of diners when the Man O' The Hour and I came in a little after noon on Sunday. The cards appeared to be stacked against Mextopia.

But Mextopia also has so much going for it. Namely ... a name. The Avila name. Diners are hard-pressed to find better Tex-Mex in this town than that served up at the Oak Lawn staple -- the restaurant Ricardo Avila defected from earlier this year to open Mextopia in competition with his parents, who still run the place on Maple Avenue. More drama for them, more delicious Tex-Mex for us.

MOTH and I figured that Mextopia could deliver if anyone could deliver when it comes to Mexi-brunch. And it certainly was nice to sit down amidst Mextopia's blue-lit disco-decor, with Phoenix spinning over the restaurant radio, and be promptly served a pile of chips and salsa. Chips and salsa, we realized, should come with every brunch, everywhere. Masking the heartburn from the previous night's tequila-whiskey throw-down with a tongue-lashing scoop of fresh salsa makes it almost like it's not maybe time to start thinking about going to meetings.

With only four brunch options, MOTH and I ordered up half the menu. He with the migas and me with the huevos motulenos. (The other two options: BLT-style torta and scrambled eggs con chorizo.) With two Bloody Marys, please and thank you. Once we had our table loaded up, however, we decided that Mextopia brunch is hardly utopian.

But neither was it dystopian. The Bloody Marys were thin, both in texture and garnish -- couple of olives and a lime. They had an interesting spice to them -- our server advised us that he was indeed using a "doctored" Zing Zang -- that hit the tongue with a quick fire upon initial sippage, then cooled off considerably for the finish. The drinks weren't particularly strong and were fabulously overpriced at $7 apiece when almost everything else in the place spends Sunday on all-day happy hour special. For $4 or $5, they'd have been a great deal.

Unsurprisingly, the food helped Mextopia recover from the mediocre Marys. My huevos motulenos came smothered in a flavorful ranchera sauce with just the right amount of black beans sandwiched between a corn tortilla and a couple of fried eggs. Surprisingly, the colorful little pile of salad that serves as a space-holder and throwaway nibble on many Tex-Mex plates turned out to be a spicy little nosh between noms of my eggs.

Sadly, MOTH wasn't bowled over by his migas, which he says were "great" but rather made him wish we'd just stopped off at Taco Joint instead. But the biggest mystery of the meal were the potatoes, seasoned with just a wee bit of rosemary and largely left to stand on their own. No onions, peppers or garlic were in sight, which made for some powerfully bland and starchy bites. We drenched the taters in salsa, but that ought to have been unnecessary. What gives, Mextopia? Detective Brunch Drunk Love wants answers.

Obviously with such a limited menu, Mextopia isn't pushing its brunch -- though I don't see why not. A good patio, a great name and a talented chef could make the Lower Greenville location a go-to for those of us who hate to venture to the west side of Central Expressway before noon on weekends -- do it too much, and it just looks downright tacky. People talk. So please, Mextopia, hear our cry: Put the Bloody Marys on the all-day special, rev up those potatoes, and see what you can do about putting together a Mexican eggs Benedict or breakfast enchiladas. We have faith in you.

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