“Wow this place reminds me of Jettie’s,” my friend said as she walked into Surfside for the very first time.
I’ve never heard one bad thing about Surfside, the wildly popular California-tinged semi-fast food Mexican restaurant which seems to be constantly populated with people younger than thirty. Their ordering system is at once a model of efficiency (for the restaurant) and a big, fat, soggy pain (for the customer) with its assembly line paper ordering system, self-serve pickup, and endless staircase-cum-balancing act.
Tacos, quesadillas, and burritos take up over half the menu here, and much of the food is spooned up from holding trays. The Maui ($9.95) is a platter of two fish tacos, double wrapped in corn tortillas, with black bean and corn salsa, guacamole, cilantro, and lime sour cream, served with a side of red beans and rice. It sounds very nice, but on this occasion my skimpy portion of fish had the appearance of dried out, badly stored tilapia (I can’t be sure it was tilapia). The rubbery tortillas – which are the norm, I suppose – did no favors to this intensely boring plate of food.
A Belize ($9.95) was split among our party of six, and was a grilled steak quesadilla with cheddar and monterey jack cheese, poblano peppers, and grilled red onions, served with sides of pico de gallo, guacamole, and lime sour cream. Again, this sounds really tasty, but had almost no flavor at all, and the meat was gristly and tasteless. Both of these dishes were saved by the sauces alone.
If the meal had ended at this point, a comparison with Chipotle Grill would not be kind to Surfside – I’d take Chipotle, even with its criminal amount of sodium, over Surfside pretty much any day. But the meal didn’t end at this point.
The Nantucket ($13.95) distances this restaurant from others within the genre. A salad of mixed organic greens with grilled salmon, grilled corn, zucchini, goat cheese, and cherry tomato with a tomato-basil vinaigrette, it sounds simple, and is. But it’s also an excellent salad that you’d be happy to find at an Artie’s or a whole host of full-service restaurants. If you find yourself at Surfside, and don’t want food that’s tailor-made for college students, consider trying the Nantucket.
Portions here are beyond generous, and we ended up taking two separate carryout containers home (on the other hand, with five beers, tax, and tip, the bill came out to over $130 for four adults and two children, so it isn’t quite as cheap as it seems). Surfside also has a separate order form for kids, and is certainly a family-friendly restaurant, in a helter-skelter sort of way.