The Early Word -- Marfa
When I heard that newly opened Marfa was attempting a chicken fried steak, I waited a respectful two weeks then hopped on my bike and peddled furiously over there.
Named after a small town on the high desert plains in West Texas that turned almost overnight from a dust bowl into an art center (see the reason here on Wikipedia), the restaurant recently replaced Waikiki Wally's, an East Village cocktail lounge near Houston Street. The décor is spare, with a wainscoted wall treatment of industrial green below and crème above, looking as if a thousand drunken souls had rubbed up against it while stumbling to the bathroom. The pair of rooms looks like a set from Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Despite web reports of the place being mobbed with kids hoisting PBRs and knocking back shots, the place was nearly empty and the waitstaff milled around expectantly.
I plopped myself down at the bar and ordered the signature cocktail, something called a Marfita. It wasn't bad, tasting and looking like a Cosmo that someone had mistakenly dumped tequila into. Without further ado, I ordered the chicken fried steak ($16). It arrived on a platter with some mashed potatoes and purple coleslaw. An eddy of pepper-shot white gravy covered the steak, which was really two steaks piled on top of each other. Now, in
I returned a couple of days later with a friend, prepared to chow down in a big way. Once again, the place was almost completely empty, and a waitress seized us like a drowning man grabs a piece of flotsam. She announced that the restaurant was not serving the regular menu, but offering a $20.99 prix fix consisting of three courses. Didn't sound like a bad deal so we forged ahead. Though it only offered four or so choices each for appetizer and entrée, most of the choices were on the regular menu.
I don't want to belabor you with the details, but aside from the mac and cheese and coleslaw (both of which were great), most of the food was memorably awful. The dry rubbed ribs were just that - dry as a bone and tasting like they'd been reheated a couple of times already. It was with difficulty that we peeled off the pellicle of spices to get at meat moist enough to chew. The fried chicken was appropriately tender, but way too salty. The skin, moreover, was pale yellow and floppy underneath the brown crust, suggesting that it had been extensively boiled before being fried. The so-called truck stop sundae was a hash of old meat and baked beans of the
At some point a bevy of Asian drag queens blew into the space from a concealed entranceway at the rear of the room. "That reminds me," my dining companion noted, "this place is related to Lucky Cheng's, and there's a common party room in the basement."