"Didn't we go there ten years ago?"
"Wasn't that the old place across from that place near that other place?"
A typical "where are we going to dinner?" conversation in my family usually includes one of these interchanges. Seeing as my parents have been eating in the same city for over 25 years, they have favorite places, places they'll never go back to, and some that they just can't quite remember.
The other night my family went back to a little Mexican restaurant in the Northern Liberty area of Philadelphia called Las Cazuelas. My dad remembered it as a cute little place with an interesting menu, and so we felt we owed that memory a trip back.
Upon entrance, one can't deny that yes, Las Cazuelas is a cute little place. It has two small floors, a lower room that opens up to the kitchen, and a larger, two room upper floor with 10+ tables between the two rooms. However, seating wise, some people find the format of the upstairs a little funky, because one of the rooms is almost entirely dedicated to high tables with high chair seating that can be uncomfortable to sit in.
Getting past that, the menu seemed interesting. An array of items, all with authentic appearing names. My family, hungry as usual, ordered three appetizers. The Empanaditas de Tinga, the chips and guacamole, and a fried plantain special. Before getting to the disappointment let me say the Empanaditas were DELICIOUS. They were the best thing I ate all night. However, the other two were absolutely horrible. The plantains were good, but one thing our waitress did not mention was that the plantains were garnished (using the term lightly) with a quarter pound of hamburger ground beef. What? Really? What was the need for that? The meat completely ruined the plantains. The chips/guac/salsa was ALSO covered in meat. We wondered why this vital part of both had been left out, so we looked back at the menu..and still couldn't find where the "large amounts of meat" came into play. The meal was essentially ruined from the beginning.
Next, we ordered dinner. I got the Arrachera, a steak with black bean soup and a potato cake. The steak was highly average, it was spiced well but it was cut in such a manner that made it tough rather than tender. The accompanying soup was completely ruined by the half a bag of parsley garnish that the chef decided would go well on top. Instead of tasting like a deep, rich bean soup, it tasted like water with parsley in it, with a side of canned beans on the bottom. Finally, the potato cake was completely underdone, the potatoes had no crust on them, so I just gave up trying to enjoy the "cake." My mother ordered the Mole, (pictured from my shoddy cameraphone below) which was the best of the worst, but still, not a good meal. The mole was far too sweet, not lending much to expertise. My sister/father also had two more average dishes, each with a small upside, but bigger downside...and just when you thought it was gone, my sister's whole dinner was covered in the typical Las Cazuelas ground beef garnish.
Bottom line: Cazuelas had mostly bad food, was a weird setting, and bad pricing. There are definitely better Mexican places/options if that's what you're hungry for. Avoid this one, it's not worth your time and money.
Rating: 1/5 Stars. (the empanaditas were the 1.)
Visit Las Cazuelas's website @ http://www.lascazuelas.net/