Lounging's the best plan at Acapulco Grille 

Take a tour of Midtown these days, and you might think the burbs are spreading from the inside out as generic, stucco-fronted mid-rise condos swallow entire blocks. But recently opened Acapulco Grille & Cantina negotiates the terrain between ITP and OTP cultures. With specials on punch bowl-sized margaritas and Midtown style, one could easily imagine heavy-duty cruising 'round midnight at the sizable bar.

Art of the chill: On both visits, the clientele is split between a polos/khakis crowd and the Lucky shirts/Diesel jeans set. College kids swill beer in the sun, while hot young boys chill inside, tucked into high-backed booths. Two substantial fish tanks back the wraparound bar. They send cool ripples of reflected light through the lounge area -- an effect that heightens the already laid-back atmosphere. Service is friendly but relaxed to the point of distraction, and the kitchen works best with simpler fare.

Sizzle, fo' shizzle: Acapulco's lengthy menu tries to please everyone. Offerings range from standard bar fare such as fried cheese and burgers to slightly more dressed-up entrees like the grilled fish with mango salsa, and, as its name would imply the usual Tex-Mex suspects. House-made salsa and chips are fine companions to rounds of drinks, but every gringo's favorite appetizer of cheese dip ($4.25) is thinned out to the point of drooling runniness. Fajitas, in both veggie ($7.95) and beef ($9.50) incarnations, are correct, if unexciting. The meat, peppers and onions are fresh, crisp and flavorful in and of themselves, but cry for a lashing of hot sauce or a heavy sprinkle of salt.

Chug-a-lug chow: The other Tex-Mex entrees we try that involve a bit more preparation err on the sloppy side. Chicken tacos ($7.95) are oversized and mushy, stuffed with wet, bland hunks of meat and heaps of shredded iceberg. Bean and cheese enchiladas ($6.25) are appealingly gooey and creamy, but as there's little distinction between beans and cheese, eating the dish quickly becomes much like listening to the same guitar chord over and over again. Accompanying tomatoey rice and refried beans, capped with rubbery white cheese, are equally mild. These entrees do possess a certain comforting tameness that would make them ideal hangover eats.

It's in the atmosphere: Acapulco Grille works more as a bright, spacious hangout that would appeal to any crowd than as a great place to eat. While the food is far from bright, bold and spicy, it's more than acceptable and very affordable. There's certainly worse things to be than approachable.



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