Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Calexico Cart

Calexico Cart originally weaseled its way onto my radar because I found it rather enigmatic that a food cart (and not a truck which would have more cooking space), could yield 4 stars on Yelp with nearly 200 reviews. Obviously I had to see for myself. Upon arrival there was a sizable crowd of people waiting for food, which I tend to take as a good sign. Logically, the food must be semi-decent if so many people are dedicated enough to put up with the wait. The man taking orders warned me it would be about 20-25 minutes. This did seem a bit long, but I decided to live life on the edge and take the alleged 20 minute plunge.

Turns out the joke was on me. Apparently 20-25 minutes means an hour on the Calexico clock. As the minutes dragged on, there was no way to tell if my order would be called soon because there was no system in place. The receipts weren’t numbered and the cooks would just yell out a name, thus giving you no concept of when you’d be called. I began to wonder just how long I’d be waiting there, and grew increasingly anxious that my supervisors would question where I’d been on my lunch break. However, I’d already paid for my meal, and figured by the time I walked anywhere and ordered something else, my ticket would be called.

Just when I thought my situation couldn’t get any more dire than Snooki’s unborn child’s future, as I neared the hour mark I heard the burrito-wrapper utter the tragic instructions “hold off on pork orders,” shortly followed by “we only have enough for one left.” Of course I’d ordered a burrito bowl with pork, and my heart sank to my growling stomach. The injustice of it all! Waiting for an hour to be denied the meal I’d ordered and paid for! Life just doesn’t get any worse than revoking the meat you ordered from a food cart after a one-hour wait. Somehow, by some karmic food-god measure, I realized the burrito-wrapper was making my bowl. I inhaled sharply with every ingredient he scooped, hoping against hope. I realized that bowl had to be mine as he skipped the beans (which I’d requested), and shoveled the last bits of pork onto the plate. Eventually, just over an hour after I initially placed my order, my name was called.

While feeling immensely relieved that I’d snagged the last pork, my miserly self naturally questioned whether my pork portion was short-changed due to the lack of available meat resources. My skepticism turned into self-disgust for being so concerned about the pork quantity when I recalled there were starving people who would have been grateful for any meal, regardless of the pork. My relief, doubt, and disgust eventually turned into anger that I was even subjected to all of these feelings in the first place, for a situation that should never have existed at all. The lack of apology, combined with the anxiety and irritation of being kept waiting over double the time I was baited with, has resulted in a scar that cannot be healed. Realistically, I should probably be seeing a therapist for the range of emotions I was exposed to that day (I’ll accept cash or check to foot the therapist bill, Calexico Cart).

Because I’d already wasted so much time being deceived in the meal-preparation phase, I was completely rushed during the consumption phase. Objectively speaking, the food from Calexico Cart was fantastic, but I barely had time to enjoy it. I’d gotten the Chipotle Pork burrito bowl, which had rice, cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese, pulled pork, pickled red onions, and “crema.” I’d added on the Chipotle crack sauce because nearly every Yelp review told me I’d be doing myself a disservice to overlook this condiment. The pork was juicy and flavorful and the crack sauce lived up to the hype. This burrito bowl had a significant edge over the burrito bowls I’m accustomed to (Chipotle and Qdoba). Maybe it was the crack sauce, maybe that insane pork, or maybe the combination of it all. Even the pickled red onions were good. However, my memory of that meal is growing increasingly fuzzy, but due to my initial experience I refuse to go back for further research.

Some of us have jobs that we feign concern about, and taking an hour away from the office, along with another half hour to eat the meal blows our cover. While I of course understand there is no science to predicting how long it will take to scoop bits of rice and pork into a foil bowl, Calexico Cart should have come clean about the wait time, or communicated to patrons in line where they stood in the stack of orders. At least apologize and thank the customer for waiting. Call me dramatic, but I cannot return to Calexico Cart both on principal, and based on the fact that I have a life and therefore don’t care to waste an hour standing around Soho. For those of you who have an hour of your life to burn standing on the corner of Wooster & Prince with the waif-like creatures floating down Spring Street, I say have at it and go wait for pork out of a glorified wagon on the street. I, on the other hand, will choose to patronize one of the many other food trucks or local establishments who have provided me with average, or dare I say it, outstanding experiences. Calexico Cart dug its own grave through poor customer service, lies regarding wait time, and unclear communication. I’d been betrayed, and I absolutely will not patronize this establishment again and use my hard-earned money to support such duplicity. I even tweeted my unsavory experience at them and Calexico never responded. Not surprising, given how they handled everything else regarding customer satisfaction. But even a response apologizing would have gone a long way and perhaps I would not be where I am now, aggressively sabotaging them on my blog. As they say, fool me once, shame on on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I won’t be fooled twice, Calexico Cart.


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