There tends to be a pattern to children by birth order. The first-born is the overachiever: learning multiplication by age four, keeping their Beanie Baby tags in plastic protectors, going to Yale. The parents are dedicated, making sure the kid eats his or her vegetables, makes his or her bed, and studies hard. Child number two gets a little less love - this kid gets a Game Boy and sits in the corner. They usually wind up just fine. By kid number three, Mom and Dad are just glad the kid can walk, talk, and tear open a box of Cheerios by themselves.
Arguello, the recently opened Mexican spot in the Presidio, is the third child of Traci des Jardins’ family, and it shows. Baby number one Jardiniere brings a high price point and top-notch service to the table, second child The Commissary is fancy and attention-seeking while not incredibly impressive, and on Arguello, the parents phoned it in. While it still has the good genes and culinary prowess of the rest of the des Jardins’ clan, they dropped the ball on teaching their youngest how to deliver on a great dining experience.
We showed up on a Friday night and were told there was an hour long wait. Could they take our phone number? Sure. Oh, one more thing. There’s no cell service in the restaurant so please check in thirty minutes to see if we’ve tried and failed to text you. We moseyed over to the crowded bar and managed to snag seats, updating the hostess that we were doing so. Twenty minutes later she came over to tell us our table was ready.
This was the beginning of a series of generally confusing events on the service side. Drinks took ages, the couple next to us received an order of head-on shrimp dish, which they did not order. They sent it back. Two minutes later the waiter delivered another plate of shrimp to their table. Our large platos were delivered with just two tortillas swaddled in paper. Either we need to make the largest tacos of all time, or we need more of the delicious tortillas. We were delivered some incredibly good beans we didn’t order. There were three to four non-bartenders wandering around behind the bar all night, hand-drying wine glasses, putting away beer steins, simply roaming. Restaurants have off nights, but the whole endeavor was pretty disconcerting.
Here's the thing: most of the food is pretty great. Once the food and drinks started to roll out, we were more at ease. And the space also gets points for atmosphere: old-school vibe with wooden beams and a cool Presidio map painting behind the bar. With a little TLC this third-born can get their sh*t together and deliver on more than just good eats. Just needs a little practice, maybe time to ask big bro for help.
$6 guacamole is the way the world should work. Thanks for doing us a solid Traci. And for seriously good guac and light crispy chips. Order immediately.
Just OK. It falls apart, the cheese is half-melted, and it isn’t all that memorable. The salsa is the best part.
More a pile of assorted items than a salad. At first we were lukewarm on it, but at bite seven we turned a corner and were all in mostly due to the freshness and killer dressing. Makes you want to eat it on a beach.
These red beans with cheese just showed up at our table, and we did not complain. They are the shit.
Bone-in duck with pomegranates and some magic puree underneath. The homemade tortillas are served hot of the...tortilla press? They are f*cking fantastic. Duck tacos should take over the world.
A hearty portion with a great tomatillo BBQ sauce. The pickled onions kick up the tacos in the thick tasty tortillas.