203 Water St.
Ph. (709) 221-9300
During its stasis, I would pass 203 Water Street and feel regret. Taj Mahal, the very decent Indian restaurant which occupied the space, was dead. Who knows why, and at this stage, who cares? The clock keeps whirring and while glowing tandoor may be gone, it was ultimately replaced by a seriously large, professional stove, and not, thank God, shelving to display St. John’s and NL tourist kitsch made zillions of miles away.
Early in 2016 the location became home of the resurrected Mustang Sally’s Flaming Skillet, whose original incarnation was situated at 7 Queen Street, across from the Cotton Club. Going from side street to Water Street was a step-up for Mustang Sally’s Flaming Skillet. (A cumbersome name if ever there was one. I’ll call it Mustang’s, like the retro marquee sign on display just inside the door.)
The motif at Mustang’s is the opposite of chichi. It’s proletarian. I suspect by budget, not design. (Most of the start-up funds were probably spent on the impressive cooker and venting system.) Apart from the marquee sign, the only eye-catching feature is a series of colourful prints of Star Wars storm trooper helmets.
Communal tables with seating for 10 take up much of the floor space, with tables for two and four along the borders. Walls feature a combination of brick, subway tile, and plain, painted surface. Overhead lighting involves several naked lightbulbs dangling from a tangle of wires. A more charitable observer might see the tangle as a clever design feature. I’m afraid all I saw was a half-hearted do-it-yourself project.
Mustang’s works much like Burrito’s, which I reviewed several weeks back. The service area, manned by two cook-servers, offered a selection of mostly fresh ingredients. I saw salubrious items like olives, black beans, peppers, carrots, onions, red cabbage and mushrooms, in addition to corn, rice, pasta, cheese, cooked meats – red and white – and 15 sauces, from third degree hot, to peppy Italian, to wan mayo.
Once you’ve decided on a taco, quesadilla, wrap, pizza, salad, stir-fry or nachos you inform the cook-server which ingredients you’d like to have in it, or on it, as well as the flavour of sauce you want in it or on it. Next you pay, take a seat and wait for your food to be served.
I noticed the temperature inside Mustang’s was on the cold side. It explained why our cook-server was dressed like Frances McDormand in the movie, Fargo. Mostly it was her fetching Dakota Dan ear flap trooper cap, although it was difficult not to notice the heavy sweater and neck scarf. I loved the practical sense of style.
Spouse’s stir-fry ended up looking more like jazzy risotto or rice salad than stir-fry. This was because all ingredients – including rice – were first placed in a high sided frying pan and rapidly heated through. After heating, stirring and plating, the resulting dish was a cohesive, farinaceous mound – which tasted much better than you’re thinking. It was, however, as far from traditional stir-fry as lasagne is from spaghetti Bolognese.
A steady stream of customers came in during lunch. Regulars who already knew what they were going to have. Many appeared to be young professionals on a tight schedule. Several had their orders bagged up and left. It wasn’t difficult to divine the reason for Mustang’s popularity. The food is fresh, uncomplicated, inexpensive and toothsome.
My pizza was commendable, even though I was disappointed to learn Mustang’s doesn’t stock tomatoes, just tomato sauce. (Maybe fresh tomatoes get too slushy sitting in a container?) An oval shaped flatbread served as the base on which ingredients were arranged. Main source of my pleasure was a gooey, fatty, salty combination of melted cheddar and mozzarella. You may want to wait for your pizza to cool off, because Mustang’s creation was served hellishly hot.
Nachos, served on parchment paper in a tin pan, came with small tubs of sour cream and salsa to add to the fun. Like the pizza, the nachos were a cheesy, gooey, guilty pleasure. Speaking of guilt, Mustang’s build-your-own nachos can be as guilty a pleasure as you like. Extra cheese? Sure. More sour cream? Bring it on.
A parting word about Mustang’s sauces. Fifteen different sauces mean dozens of extra ingredients. Think about it. Hidden ingredients, not naked ones like the fresh ingredients on display. Naturally, people with serious food allergies and sensitivities would be concerned.
Mustang’s has eliminated cause for concern by creating a list of sauces containing potential allergens. The list references soy, egg, gluten, dairy and other trigger products. It isn’t posted. You must ask to see it. I think you’ll agree that eating should be stress free. Mustang’s deserves credit for its initiative.
Price Lunch for two with beverage, tip and tax costs approximately $28.
Service Friendly and efficient.
Ambiance Cool – in temperature and tone.
Sound level Moderate.
Open Sunday and Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Reservations Walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major.
Parking Street and Atlantic Place Parking Garage.
Beverages Mustang’s menu says, “We like to mix it up, but generally serve soda, water, juice, and local beer.” Printing on subway tiles behind the bar indicated wine was available for $6.50 a glass and $24 per bottle. At the time, Mustang’s was selling Frontera (Chile) Tinto, Carmenere, and Blanco.
Best bet Pizza.
Wheelchair access No.
* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional