It’s nice having things that remind you of your childhood.
If you grew up in Dallas, remember the Bennigan’s that used to be near the skating rink in the Galleria? A favorite of mine, as a 7-year-old, was the plate of fried cheese sticks, which came with a bland marinara-like sauce for dipping.
Turns out, eating at San Martin takes one back to that mediocre sauce with a more watery version. Brunch here isn’t unpalatable, but there’s really not much flavor to rave about in this much-ballyhooed Uptown spot.
Definitely not terrible: the aesthetics here. Ceilings fit for two stories with large windows swimming in natural light feel nice. The owl decorations around the space are cute. The plants hanging from walls and in pots offer the right shade of green in your background. But it all feels a bit inauthentic.
Service didn’t offer any more authenticity. The wait for someone to even acknowledge us made us wonder if we missed a counter where we were supposed to order. You order at the table, but you might have to wait for it.
The menus are nothing short of small books, with photos for each item. According to the elaborate menu, “San Martin was founded in 1974, with a vision to embrace the vibrant food culture of Guatemala …” so you’ll find some dishes that sound interesting, especially for those uninterested in yet another order of Southern fried chicken and waffles. But once you get a plate of soggy cheese topped with egg (and that watered-down tomato sauce), you’ll feel less excited.
In a neighborhood that covets great coffee, San Martin's doesn't stand out, and while the refried beans and plantains are flavorful, the kitchen seems inconsistent with eggs.
The Salvadoreno ($11.95) sounds good with two corn tortillas stuffed with chicharron or cheese with loroco. But the end product was soggy, not crispy, and certainly wasn't reminiscent of a pupusa. The two eggs on top were cooked perfectly to the requested medium. But that disappointing ranchera sauce can ruin just about anything.
We asked for a side of meat and got a blank stare from our waiter, who eventually decided chorizo was the answer. A plate of cubed meat sitting in grease came to us, allegedly offering protein but definitely not any enticing flavor.
The redeeming aspect of this place may be the bakery across from the dining room. The smells fill the restaurant, and the little rows offer plenty of baked goods to take home. The nice imagery on Facebook followed by a cool interior design made us hopeful for this place, but brunch needs some work.
San Martin Bakery and Restaurant, 3120 McKinney Ave. (Uptown). Breakfast served 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
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