The avocado mousse provided the first clue, the shot glass of corn the second: MexiQ Kitchen & Draught has aspirations. This Mexican-barbecue restaurant in Astoria seeks to transcend its sports bar-ness and appeal to a wider selection of the populace. Three screens show games in HD, while three fires roar in back behind glass and metal. Waitresses wear flannel shirts unbuttoned just so, while busboys take the time to ask how you're enjoying the food. The menu lists beer pairings--more than 45 artisanal selections on tap--along with descriptions of food. We toasted our pints of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Chelsea Winter Wheat, content to be out of the cold, nestled in an oversized booth, ready for some south-by-southwest cooking.
We started with the octopus and shrimp ceviche ($5), with tortilla chips on the side and a squiggle of the aforementioned avocado mousse on the top. A salsa made from green olives and tomatoes salted the proteins, whose chunks retained their firmness. After a few minutes, a rhythm developed at our table: bite, sway to the music, bite, sway to the music. We were having a good time.
The BBQ brisket tacos ($8) offered a brisket sandwich minus the bread. Put another way, it didn't at all taste dolled up or Mexified—it was straight up sweet brisket on some tortillas. Not a bad idea, certainly, but not exactly a revelatory one either. It came with a side of saccharine esquites (creamy corn). Alas, our fork didn't fit into the shotglass, and the corn's viscosity prevented an easy slide, so mostly this side functioned as decoration.
MexiQ encourages serious meat consumption, so we also ordered the South Carolina pork skillet ($16). A messy plate of food yielded a tremendous amount of flavor, from the sugary glaze of the hacked up meat to the slightly acrid, crunchy slaw. A side of jalapeno-goat cheese cornbread soaked up the sauce and sang a Mexican solo that harmonized well with the southern chorus.
The MexiQ quesadilla tasting ($16) let us try the three featured quesadillas: the azteca (chicken, white cheddar, and corn), the nortena (chorizo, jalapenos, and goat cheese), and devil corn (huitlacoche, gruyere, mushrooms, and corn). Of the three, the azteca really rocked, a combination of rich, oozy textures.
Toward the front, the laughs of women making an occasion of an ordinary Sunday ricocheted off the metal-topped tables. At the bar, a group of men high-fived the Jets' first down. Nothing about this place says romance, at least not in a traditional sense. But if we've learned one thing in the year we've been writing this column, it's that there are as many types of dates, and types of romance, as there are restaurants in New York City. MexiQ is fun, and best for: a boisterous, boozy date.