Perhaps it's the cheer of the holiday season that has left this Scrooge feeling generous. It could be that the approaching new year has made me reflective about fresh starts. Whatever the reason, I'm dishing out second chances, and Gringo (398 North Euclid Avenue; 314-449-1212) is at the top of my "nice" list.
As loyal Gut Check readers may recall, I eviscerated Gringo in a review last August, saying that the only enjoyable things about the place were the beachy atmosphere, prime location and complimentary chips and salsa. As if calling the place bland and tasteless wasn't enough, there was a reference to burnt zoysia grass and a snide comment about the competitive eater Kobayashi's technique of dunking dry bread in water.
It was one of my biggest disappointments of the year for many reasons, not the least of which is that owners Chris Sommers and Frank Uible of the famed Pi Pizzeria have the restaurant know-how to make a place successful.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who had less-than-loving words for the Central West End eatery. A few months ago, I received a note from the folks at Gringo, poking fun at itself for its missteps and inviting me to give it another shot. With a new chef and a revamped menu, Gringo acknowledged that it hadn't been at the top of its game. I decided to give them another try. After all, if I had a dime for every mistake I've made, I would be writing this from an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.
The changes have made a world of difference. On a recent revisit, Gringo showed that it had turned things around significantly. One of the more egregious offenders on my previous visits -- the misnamed shrimp cocktail ceviche -- has been rebranded more accurately as shrimp cocktail. What once tasted like flat chile sauce has been replaced with a zesty salsa, chunky with bits of onions and avocados.
A chimichanga filled with braised chicken, rice and black beans was generously stuffed, although I could have gone for more chicken and less beans. The taste was good, though, with tinga sauce (a traditional Mexican sauce of tomatoes and chipotle) giving it some tangy smoke.
Plus: a brunch menu!
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