Mad Mex in Oakland. As you may remember from my previous Mad Mex review, this particular Mad Mex is a bit of a train wreck when it comes to ambiance and service. The food is always delicious (although, it does occasionally arrive cold), but the cramped location and surly front-of-house staff consistently detract from what could be an exquisite eating experience.
At least, that was the trend until I visited the Oakland location two weeks ago.
On this particular Sunday, I was craving Mad Mex but couldn't be bothered to go to one of the other locations, so I just went to the closest. I knew that they would have excellent food, and for me, excellent food can eclipse most annoyances.
I arrived at the Oakland location at about 5:15. I figured that if I arrived early enough, it wouldn't be too cramped. I was right. The restaurant was only about half full. When I walked in the door, I was greeted almost instantly by a cheerful hostess and was shown to my seat. Already, this was an improvement on my last Mad Mex experience and all of my visits to the Oakland location.
One reason why I love Mad Mex is their effort to source local and seasonal ingredients. In the summer, they have fresh, local corn on the menu. I knew before I arrived that I would be having grilled corn for dinner; however, I had yet to decide what else I was going to have. As I perused the menu, the server arrived at my table, took my drink order, reviewed the specials, and asked if I had any questions. She was both polite and even made me laugh at one point. I started to wonder if I had been transported to an alternate universe.
As my in the restaurant continued, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the whole thing disintegrated. I was wrong. The service was perfect, and while waiting for my meal, the server stopped at my table regularly to check on my progress and to fill my water glass. When the food arrived, it arrived hot and in a timely manner. My starter of corn on the cob with chipotle aioli was delicious, and my mains of Pennsyltucky Fried Fofu was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside (and it wasn't missing any of the components - a problem that I have had in the past).
I was there for less than an hour, and even though I took my time eating, I never felt rushed, nor did I feel like a nuisance who was intent on interrupting the serving process by my presence. It wasn't just a good experience on the Mad Mex Oakland sliding scale, it was an extraordinary dining experience by any standard.
I had a lovely time, and if they can keep up this level of service, I may just have a new favorite Mad Mex location.