One of the new hip places to eat in town, brought to you by the people who brought you Tinker Street, is Festiva. It’s just down the street from Tinker, and has a distinctive hipster tacqueria vibe. No kids allowed as the bar is the center of the place, much like at Tinker. Half of the restaurant is in a plastic-covered patio, so I would dress in layers. The first time we were sat there and it was pretty darn cold (they do give you blankets to keep warm with though). The second time we were seated inside and it was very toasty. Layers people, I recommend layers.
They do a very good job with margaritas. I have tried several of them over the two visits. Probably my favorite was the top shelf option, the Margarita Mejor ($12). It is a nice classic margarita flavor, not too sweet, not too sour. I have also had the Margarita Estacional ($10), which is a blood orange version (if there’s blood orange anything, I am usually going to order it) with habanero and hibiscus. It may have been a touch sweetfor me, one goes a long way, but still tasty.
I like the little spicy crunchy puffs they give you that are mixed with crunch fried chickpeas. I could live without the drizzle of sauce they put on top, which makes them soggy after a couple of minutes. Anyhow, this is the freebie they give you and I like them. Friends on one visit thought they were too tangy, but you know me, I like that.
On both visits we had the sopes with squash, kale and almond mole ($8). The first time we really enjoyed them—they were super fresh and the toppings had a great fresh flavor and lots of the mole. On the second visit, they were not good. They tasted like they had sat for a bit and you can look at them side by side in the pic and just see—there is not the same amount of the mole sauce. We didn’t even eat all three of them between four of us. The first time we gobbled them up.
Both times we had the poblano fundido ($8) with chorizo and this was a winner both times. It’s an interesting take on a cheesy starter, with a stuffed poblano and a big slab of broiled cheese across the top. I was glad to have some chips to eat with it though, which I did not the first time. You kind of want/need something to scoop it up with I think. The second time we ordered the guacamole with chips (hence the chips)($9). I enjoyed this. The guac was super fresh and nice and chunky, how I like it. It had a kick to it from some serranos and I liked the textural and flavor addition of the pepitas and pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate also gave a nice little kick of acid. It’s not a huge portion of guac for the price, but tasty. And the chips were nice and thin like I like.
Over the course of the two visits, I have tried all the tacos. That’s right, all of them. The first time we were a large group and got them all. I was surprised to find that my two favorites were the fish ($25) and the goat. Well, I should say both times I really liked the fish. They are my favorite for sure. The first time the goat was really good too—super tender. The second time it was a bit dryer and seemed less flavorful than I remembered. So the thing about the tacos is they are all build your own style (as you can see from the pics). You get the protein, the tortillas, some salsas to choose from and then some onions, cilantro and limes. I liked the fish the best because just by itself it had the most flavor—that salsa across the top is nice and tangy and oniony (made with lots of scallions). It made the dish. I guess I liked that you can just eat that on its own without having to doctor it up to enjoy it. The other meats weren’t as exciting to me and you had to use all the stuff to give them the moisture and flavor you wanted to make them get to the exceptional level. All good, but not blowing your mind on their own. And I was surprised to find my least favorite was actually the pork—it was quite dry on its own. The fish is the one I will definitely order again. And I felt that way about the goat the first time, but after ordering again was less sure. Prepare yourself with the fish though if you order it—it’s a whole fish with a head and all, but it is so good.
The second time we also had the carne asada ($24), which was tasty nicely cooked beef. Again, it’s the theme of a giant pile of meat with various accompaniments with which to build yourself a taco of sorts. This one has housemade chorizo and a super spicy chipotle type sauce with it (be careful with that stuff, it will surprise you). The meat was tasty for sure.
The thing about this place is it’s definitely not going for a refined type of food, which I am totally down with. However, I sometimes just like getting a taco that’s put together by the kitchen with all the stuff they think it needs to make it really yummy. Maybe I am lazy, but that’s my preference. I never feel like I get it just the way it was intended on my own. I have friends who absolutely love this place, and I enjoy it for sure, but I think I prefer to get a plate of composed food when I go out to dinner. Just a personal preference.
We had a couple of the desserts over the two visits. They pretty much all revolve around fruit, and were fine, but not anything that made me extremely excited. I would love to see just one have a spicy Mexican chocolate component, but maybe that’s too old fashioned.
It’s a fun place, the service is very good and very knowledgeable and I really enjoy the drinks. The food is hearty and like I said, very hands on. Not a bad place to go with a larger group to try more than a couple of things. It has a kind of party atmosphere and is a fun place. For me, the food doesn’t blow me away, but I have always enjoyed things there, and clearly they are not hurting for business. I know a bunch of you have probably been there and I would love to hear your thoughts.
1217 East 16th Street