Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At Señor Frog’s in Times Square, It’s Spring Break Forever

[ed. Oh, my. Pete Wells saves his best restaurant review of the year (and maybe ever) for last.]

I was having my second Frogasm of the night when dinner got weird.

Not that this or any other night at Señor Frog’s in Times Square was ever fully conventional. In point of fact, I had already danced in a conga line wearing a three-foot-high crown of yellow and orange balloons that made me look like Simba in a production of “The Lion King” staged by balloon animals.

In further point of fact, I had also eaten a foot-long chili dog presented on a skateboard. Consider, too, that outside Señor Frog’s I had passed a sign promising that “Drinks go in, fun comes out!” (If nothing else, I was looking forward to seeing the restrooms.) The drink that was going in, a deviant margarita, came in a plastic cup that had a long, thrusting, curved, ridged shaft, ostensibly modeled on the trunk of a palm tree but impossible to grasp without thinking: “ribbed for her pleasure.” (...)

I came to Señor Frog’s later than most of its customers. Founded in Mexico in 1969, the chain thrives in Caribbean beach towns and caters to college students on spring break who will fake orgasms on stage to win a margarita. I wasn’t one of them. My most memorable spring break was whiled away in my room reading “The Sorrows of Young Werther” in German.

This did not get me invited to many orgasm contests, but I was inclined to think the time with Goethe had been well spent until Señor Frog’s opened on 42nd Street last summer. For the first time, I wished I had some memories of the chain. So when I ate there, I brought people who had gone to Señor Frog’s in their wilder years. Unfortunately, none of them recalled anything about it, either. One volunteered that he had climbed onto a giant speaker at the Cancún branch and danced furiously, a fact he knows only because witnesses later told him about it.

“I think I went on a water slide,” said a woman who had also unwound in Cancún. “But I can’t remember where it ended.”

“In jail,” her husband said.

There is no water slide at the Times Square location, which offers a more sober and family-friendly version of the Frog experience. (“Do not show underwear,” the dress code posted at the door warns.) In early evening the place is filled with children, like the two who got up to sing “Let It Go” and gamely karaoked away when a blizzard of confetti snow erupted from the foot of the stage.

Later the crowd got older, with more New Yorkers and fewer tourists than I had expected. Cocktails in embarrassing palm-tree vessels abounded, but I never saw anybody get really tanked, myself included, even after multiple Frogasms. All the mixed drinks seemed tame, and the shot that a server squirted into my open mouth when I hopped by in the conga line tasted like orange Gatorade.

Señor Frog’s is not a good restaurant by most conventional measures, including the fairly basic one of serving food. One night I got just two of the half-dozen appetizers I had asked for. Another time, the starters showed up on schedule, but after nearly two hours the main courses still had not appeared.

“What happened to our food?” we finally asked.

“That’s what I’m wondering!” our server said brightly. “Like, where is it?”

Getting just half of what you order at Señor Frog’s can be a blessing if it’s the right half. The chili, rich and chocolate-brown, does just what you want it to do for the thick, juicy hot dog or the nachos, whose chips were flaccid one night but crunchy another. Honey-sriracha wings, which ping-pong between sweet and spicy, are preferable to the Buffalo wings, which taste like a mild case of acid reflux.

The ribs meet chain-restaurant standards, and so does the pulled pork sandwich once you scrape off the questionable coleslaw. You can get far worse guacamole at far more serious restaurants. (All other restaurants are more serious than Señor Frog’s.)

The Reuben is good, for some reason.

Most other things I tried may as well have stayed in the kitchen, except the chicken enchiladas, which should have been sent back to Cancún. I thought they tasted like tuna, but a more acute observer said the flavor was like pork sprinkled with fish food.

by Pete Wells, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Daniel Kreiger