Combining two great culinary traditions, as Williamsburg's Santos Anne does, can be dangerous. You have to balance conflicting agendas, be sensitive when shining the spotlight, and ensure that large egos don't get bruised. It's like the cooking equivalent of a supergroup. Do it right, and you get The Dead Weather or The Postal Service. Do it wrong, and you wind up with three bassists of Freebass or the atrocity that was VH1's Damnocracy. Santos Anne nicely brings together French and Mexican. We're happy to say we left humming "Sunshine of Your Love."
We started with a special, a cantaloupe, basil, mozzarella, tomato, and olive oil salad ($13). While it looked like a something you'd find on the "dieter's delite [sic]" menu at Bushwood Country Club, with carefully scooped balls placed in a hollowed out melon rind, all balanced, preposterously, on a single leaf of iceberg lettuce, it was utterly replenishing. Summer's bounty gets along great.
Next, we tried the kale caesar with seared octopus and calamari ($12). Hey, it was hot, and two salads in one meal suited. Chopped kale and romaine mingled with chorizo, wild plums, and the aforementioned octopus and calamari in a vinegary horseradish dressing. With a few turns of cracked pepper, or a smarter sear on the calamari, and this salad coulda been a contender. Nevertheless, it charmed and filled.
Of all the food we ordered, the Mexican steak tartare ($15) best married French to Mexican. So much so, in fact, that perhaps the most accurate way to describe the thick disk is "meat salsa." Cornichons and capers lent an appealing brininess, while jalapenos, pico de gallo, and cilantro offered both crunch and freshness. It came with fries, but toast points, tortillas, or even chips would have acted as a foil for tartare's standard clamminess.
Santos Anne's calendar makes it easy to build in multiple types of dates: "Mystic Mondays" offer tarot readings, so you can learn your future together while noshing on tacos. Tuesdays through Saturdays feature live music in all kinds of genres. You're urged to "bring your guitar" to the open mics on Sunday nights. While we were there, flyers advertised an upcoming pétanque tournament, and a busboy spent several minutes raking the bocce court which runs along one wall.
Given its adaptability, French is sort of like the Chris Cornell of the food world. It works solo or when harmonizing with others (c.f., Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, etc.). Santos Anne refers to itself as "French Mex," which beats alternatives like "Frexican" or "Mexench." It's cash only, and serves its edible duets in a multicolored dining room or lovely backyard. Santos Anne is best for: a mellifluous date.
About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.