Gustavson Column: Shrimp enchiladas and a failed pub crawl

Lucharitos in Greenport. (Credit: Vera Chinese)
Lucharitos in Greenport. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The premise was a simple one, I thought. A group of old (and getting older) friends would meet for dinner at the grand reopening of Lucharitos, the trendy Tex-Mex joint on Greenport’s lower Main Street, and then we’d go on a good, old-fashioned pub crawl around the village. You know: a cocktail here, a cocktail there, just like the old days. With something old, Claudio’s and Whiskey Wind, and something new, Brix & Rye and First and South, on the agenda. (Yes, I know, there are a lot of “olds” and few “news” left off that list, but this was intended to be the first of several pub crawls scheduled between now and Labor Day.)

But first: Lucharitos. I’d had a couple of positive experiences at the original, smaller manifestation of this place, and one not-so-positive one, having to do with too many customers and not enough staffers. On May 8, at the grand reopening, the joint was once again jumping with more customers than there were seats, but the large, well-trained staff was more than up to speed and the scene can only be described as, well, a scene.

The bar, which has been enlarged to double its previous capacity, was jumping with four (count ’em, four!) bartenders. And there was a nice mix of locals (I counted six neighbors from Orient) and dozens of black-clad kids who would have been right at home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And while there was a waiting line out the door, nobody seemed to mind — especially owner Marc LaMaina and his staff.

They’ve managed to double the size of the establishment without sacrificing the look and coziness of the original. I don’t know who’s responsible for the decorating — largely in keeping with the Mexican wrestling theme (lucharitos means “little fighters,” the south-of-the-border grapplers who traditionally wear ornate face masks) — but they’ve done an outstanding job of it.

Perhaps the waitstaff’s and barkeeps’ ability to keep up with the Friday night throng was attributable to their experience the previous evening, when a “soft opening” intended mostly for family and friends was taken by surprise when 17 European bicyclists walked in unannounced and asked for dinner. Reportedly, they got what they asked for but forgot something before departing: gratuities for the staff. (And that’s because in Europe, it seems, tipping isn’t automatic and in some countries not expected at all, according to travel guru Rick Steves.)

Oh, yes, the food. I can speak only of what I ate, shrimp enchiladas with guacamole and sour cream, but it was um, um good.

So, then, with our dinner at Lucharitos behind us, the pub crawl was about to begin, right? Not so fast. The five of us (the former Joan Giger Walker was visiting her sister in Maine) had managed to consume a total of five alcoholic beverages, but when I suggested making a righthand turn down Main Street to Claudio’s circa 1885 bar, I had no takers. Two of my mates wanted to call it a night (at 9 o’clock!) and another was unwilling to commit to an agenda of one drink per upcoming establishment. So, after a brief stop for lattes and chocolate mousse at Frank Purita’s old-new place on the other side of Main Street, we called it a night. At 9 o’clock!

So much for our so-called pub crawl. Which, if wishes do come true, would have ended much as a previous visit to Whiskey Wind had ended several decades ago: at midnight, in the back barroom, with a large woman wearing Spandex trying to sing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” accompanied by the karaoke machine while her 8-year-old son attended to his homework atop the bar.

Only in Greenport? Perhaps.

TR080609_Gustavson_RThe author is the former co-owner and publisher of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].