Review: Señor Flaco’s

Tacos and more, with a smile
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  February 25, 2009

Señor Flaco’s | 401.315.2626 | 15 Canal St, Westerly | flacosri.com | Open Wed-Thurs+Sun | 4-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 4-10 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level accessible

It's good to see a restaurant with a sense of humor. As well as serving good Tex-Mex chow, Señor Flaco's offers up a good dose of levity.

Flaco means thin, so the name stands in ironic contrast to the belt-busting midriffs that this starch-packed cuisine is more readily associated with. Or lies supine in contrast: their lanky, sombreroed icon is stretched out on the menu cover, a margarita in one hand, a long-stemmed rose in the other, a toothy, seductive grin between mustachios curled up like arms bulging their biceps.

The interior is vast, so there's plenty of painted cinderblock wall space on which to entertain. There is a billboard-sized portrait of La Sirena Gorda, an open-armed and zaftig mermaid, apparently Mr. Skinny's ideal of womanly abundance. The place bursts with color — heavy on turquoise, yellow, and red, from an angry rooster below a roasted chicken in a thought bubble to multicolored rope lights snaking atop a wire fence partitioning. Even without people, the place is hopping.

A basket of house-made corn chips is placed on your table. The accompanying dish of loose but tasty salsa isn't spicy hot but is served warm, with a bottle of Cholula hot sauce nearby to amp it up. An extra order of the duo is only $1.50. I appreciate a restaurant that charges what's necessary to do things right, and the $6.99 for a bowl of house-made guacamole is worth it. (A side dish, for your tacos or whatever, is $1.99.) For your chips, you may also order queso fundido ($5.99), cheese fondue containing chorizo and green chiles.

An appetizer plate is usually a good indicator of what's popular, and the one here contains stuffed potato skins, taquitos, chicken wings, and jalapeño poppers ($12.99). We decided to try their signature spicy fried calamari ($7.99). It was good, close to the standard Rhode Island version, with sliced cherry peppers, the variation being a mild spiciness and a cooling aioli dip, for those wishing it even milder.

For soup, chile con carne ($4.99) is listed every day, plus a special, both of which they were out of on our midweek visit. For light appetites there is a taco salad ($8.99), to which veggies, meat, or shrimp may be added, or a Mexican BBQ chopped salad ($10.99).

They're not prejudiced toward touristas at Señor Flaco's. In fact, the menu offers a Gringo Board of items — burgers, pulled pork, even a Philly cheesesteak sandwich — for those who wandered into the wrong restaurant. Under Taqueria choices, they even offer "Gringo Tacos," as well as the fatter "Tacos Authentico," both $7.99 ($1.99 extra for some of the fillings, such as ancho-braised beef or fish of the day).

Under Platos Especiales, tacos also appear — steak ($12.99) and breaded fish fillets ($11.99), served with refried beans and Mexican rice. Two of us picked from the half-dozen other choices. One item that was not the same-old was camarones con aguacates ($13.99), shrimp in an avocado cream sauce. It was fabulous. Minced garlic gave just the right guacamole tang. Alongside were black beans and flavorful, lightly tomatoed rice.

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