My visit to Se Cocina last week was a pleasant one. It was very interesting to see what was done to the interior of the old El Tapatio space downtown (608 Austin Avenue) for probably a modest amount of money. A considerable amount of furniture and accessories were reused in a more dressy and creative way. A good coat of paint and some repairs have transformed the space into a modern looking and cleaner appearing restaurant.
Some of the changes are superficial. A small wall mounted LCD TV replaced the old analog set, CCN replaced One Life to Live, and some of the wall art has been upgraded (subjective art opinion). The place now appears so upscale that a group of citizens formed a small welcoming party last month. Just before midnight, three men robbed the owner. One shot was fired during the robbery and the well-wishers dropped some of the money as they fled the scene.
Fortunately, I ran into a different crowd when I had lunch there last week. When I arrived at 11:45 AM, the place was nearly empty – reminding me of El Tapatio. The service team of about 12 seated our party immediately and remained very attentive while I decide on the Tacos Magnificos. Of course, the prices have changed. What would you expect in all this new splendor. Very few restaurants have $5 lunch specials these days. I had mentally prepared for the higher cost.
I like El Tapitio. I like their chips. I like their salsa. I like their lunch prices. I am sorry they left downtown. I ate there frequently. The food was not spectacular but for the price it was good value.
I was also mentally prepared for a less that great plate of food as well. That’s the good part. The food was not awful. My tacos were stuffed with nicely grilled beef. The guacamole was tasty. The beans a bit bland but the rice was good. The chips were ordinary and the salsa was plain looking but with a heavy garlic punch. I don’t think Se Cocina ranks at the top of Waco’s Mexican restaurant heap but it is well above the bottom.
By the time we left, just after 1:15 PM, Se Cocina was nearly full. Something that rarely happened when the place was El Tapatio.
My lunch and a glass of $1.75 tea (!) came to $12 before a tip for the good service I received. That is a bit pricy for a downtown lunch. I can usually exit Ninfa’s, Crickets, and Gratziano's for less. It’s not a cheap lunch but the food is acceptable, the decor better, and the service is above average.