The allure of eating in an art setting has been exploited by museums for generations; lately, high-art institutions such as New York’s MOMA have even shot for stars in the Times. Nobody would accuse Gallista Gallery of being a high-art institution.
Nor is Café Citlali, the licuado-and-taco joint Gallista houses, a candidate for estrellas of any conventional sort. Yet there are some novas in this inventive operation run by artist/social activist Deborah Vasquez (her cartoon alter ego adorns walls in the café space). And there are some red dwarves.
The one dud of a recent taco tasting was the namesake El Gallista with “spicy” marinated chicken grilled with onions and sweet peppers. Grilled it was, and dry; spicy it was not. The onions and peppers contributed little, and the mango pico de gallo was tasty but loose. And while we’re on cosas that underdelivered, might as well mention the Licuado Loco called Ilumina el Coco. Composed of coconut, organic milk, plátano, almonds and agave nectar, it “promotes brain stimulation.” The taste was OK, but the blend was gritty where it needed to be thick and smooth. It did stimulate the brain though — to think of fixes, like more plátano for texture. A free sample of the agua fresca del dia, a mix of celery and green apple, however, proved to be oddly appealing.
The names of other licuados are enough to make you want to order them. Take No Respiro Sin Ti with mango, yogurt and OJ, or Menos Que Te Veo Mas Te Quiero blending pineapple juice, almonds, banana, flaxseed and wheat germ. Gotta be good for you — and good for a chuckle.
It will take some time for your tacos to be delivered, by the way. At least it did for us. Fill the void by checking out the art, making sure to hit the back room that’s like a thrift shop assembled with a knowing eye. Reminds us of Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s old place just up the street.
Now, let’s hear it for Las Comadres, a taco stuffed with cochinita pibil, grilled piña, and a crumble or two of queso freso. Presented in a thin, but just sturdy enough, corn tortilla hecha en casa, it’s fantastico. You could use some of the salsa verde blended with olive oil, but it’s not necessary — save that for La Sirena, a taco of fried chunks of pescado topped off with coleslaw, avocado, and crema chipotle. An unexpected fave was Los Veggies. It’s the least inventive name, but a very creative mix of calabacita, corn, black bean y mas: sloppy but way good with the salsa roja.
That leaves the one postre we tried, Chave’s cupcakes de chocolate Mexicano. Broodingly dark, they look way more potent than they actually are. Try the carrot cupcake or the cookies instead.
Vasquez plans to open for breakfast soon, with items such as “killer” pancakes, French toast and organically-sourced tacos, allowing for an early art-and-food fix.
Café Citlali @ Gallista Gallery
1913 S. Flores