366 Union Ave, Williamsburg
I often dream of hosting a cooking show called “Leftovers Challenge,” where I approach drunks at last-call and ask them to take me to their homes and cook me a meal from the contents of their kitchen refrigerator in exchange for cash and prizes. That person who created the brie-and-bacon taco with mustard, chipotle sauce and arugula on top? That person wins. However, this taco isn’t the brainchild of a drunkard with a well-stocked fridge on my imaginary TV show—it’s an actual menu item at an actual restaurant, Williamsburg’s Santos Anne. A pair costs $9. With soft, fatty bacon and thick-cut melted cheese, they’re as greasy as you’d imagine, but tastier than you might expect. The grease would be better absorbed by a baguette, but then the Santos Anne’s French-Mexican gimmick would be gone. If the Frenchican experience appeals to you, wash it down with the restaurant’s girly signature cocktail, a tequila-mezcal drink that’s sweetened with agave, rosewater and St. Germain ($9).
With so many chefs trained in French culinary traditions and so many native Mexicans working in New York’s restaurant kitchens, it makes sense that the two cuisines could come together for some pretty sick staff meals. (The staff meal is basically the real-life “Leftovers Challenge” that happens in restaurants every day.) At the Brooklyn Wok Shop in Williamsburg, French techniques are successfully applied to Chinese takeout, and the French-Mexican mishmash is handled with aplomb at Smith Street’s Jolie Cantina. But Santos Anne mixes cultures’ ingredients without the kitchen skills of the aforementioned spots. The flavors came together surprisingly well in the duck, goat cheese, olive tapenade, arugula, honey-chipotle tacos ($10), but the duck was as dry as overcooked pork. The Caesar salad, with kale, romaine, spicy bits of chorizo and pleasantly sharp horseradish dressing, would’ve been better off without the super-chewy calamari add-on ($13). Not everything on the menu is cross-cultural though; you could play it safe with the chips and guacamole ($9), followed by some French onion soup ($8).
As far as décor, Santos Anne has the beauty of a ramshackle bistro paired with some sweet Tex-Mex kitsch. Quasi-Parisian sidewalk seating includes bar stools that line the front window; hand-painted murals of mujeres y hombres designate the bathrooms. In the backyard, a sandy petanque court is flanked with rustic tables. The quaint bar-seating built around a tall tree may lure you in, but be warned that live, Frenchy lite-rock may begin blasting beside you. Santos Anne promises live music every night except Monday, when tarot readings are offered free of charge. If anyone sees something in the cards for my leftovers game show, please drop me a line.