East Bay, California


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rating star

I give Picante some credit for having a separate vegetarian menu, with all vegan or veganizable options identified. On the other hand, the food here is really bland and basic, and not that distinct from what you'd find at virtually any other generic Mexican restaurant in the US.

Also, the menu repeats itself from section to section, akin to the old saw about Taco Bell basically just rearranging the same three ingredients. For example, do you want a plate of rice and beans and potatoes served with corn tortilla on the side, or would you prefer a tostada salad with rice and beans and potatoes? Why are these considered separate dishes and worthy of separate placement on the two-page vegetarian menu?

We started off with the guacamole and chips ($6.50), which was okay, but not great. This guacamole was heavy on the avocado and had too light a touch on every other critical ingredient---the citrus, the cilantro, the tomatoes, onions and garlic. The chips were good---crisp and not oily.

Next we shared the "legumbres" platter ($11) which came with four corn tortillas on the side. This was your generic dish with black beans, Spanish rice, and some seasoned potatoes all on a piece of heavy fiestaware. It was boring.

Lastly, we shared a margarita, which was pretty decent.

The ordering system here is weird. You stand in a line, place your order at a counter, and then someone brings you your food. On the other hand, it's up to you to get your own water, salsas, napkins and utensils. In other words, it combines all of the bad aspects of fast food (waiting in a line, self-service on everything), with none of the good (at Picante, you have to wait in line AND you have to wait to get your food).

If Picante had more flavorful seasonings and used more varied ingredients (how about seitan or tofu, just to start?) it might be a bit more interesting.

If you're looking for good vegan or vegetarian Mexican food, go to Flacos in Berkeley and get their taquitos or their soft tacos. If you're looking for good vegan or vegetarian food in general, that's seasoned, varied and delicious, go to a Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian or Indian restaurant instead.

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