On a bright and warm Friday before Thanksgiving, we visited Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill. Located less than a five minute walk away from Yale’s central campus, Geronimo is a must-try for those who are looking for delicate Southwestern food prepared with care using the freshest ingredients. On this visit we were accompanied by two of our readers, Kara O’Rourke (a sophomore at Yale from Darien, CT) and Laura Palacio Londono (also a sophomore at Yale hailing from Colombia/Florida).
We were welcomed by the friendly staff and seated at a table at the outside patio where we could feel the warmth of the sunshine. Soon after we were seated, our cheerful waiter Magnus brought us a bowl of house-made chips and salsa. The chips, made fresh daily, were perfectly thick and crunchy, tempting us to fill ourselves with just them. Luckily, we saved enough space for the impressive line up of that followed!
To go with our chips, we were served a generous amount of guacamole in a majestic molcajete bowl. The guac was fresh, cold, and had a bold but refreshing limey flavor. The crisp housemade chips combined excellently with the melt-in-the-mouth guacamole. It’s a perfect dish to share among a group of friends!
Managed by the inspiring head chef Franco Camacho, Geronimo serves the New Haven community an authentic taste of Santa Fe cuisine and prides itself for being 100% Southwestern. Franco began our conversation by telling us that just like his mother’s nourishing way of cooking for her kids “Geronimo doesn’t feed their guests but nourishes them,” a motto which set up the stage for the profound stories that followed. As we talked, it was clear that Franco put his personal background and story into crafting every single item on the menu. His life story was inspiring, and sure to ring true with every aspiring chef! After getting into a school of dentistry, Franco decided to leave school to pursue his passion of cooking and followed his mother’s footsteps into becoming a professional chef. Carrying his cultural background and values to everywhere he went, Franco lived, trained, and cooked all around the world from Mexico to Switzerland to Spain, before finally settling in New Haven with his family. For more than a decade now, he has been sharing his own culture and values with the local community here in Connecticut through his deliberately crafted dishes.
Throughout our visit, we were presented with an incredibly generous and delicious lineup of food — from appetizers to main dishes to dessert — which took us on a culinary trip across the South West bursting with authentic flavors.
The first main dish we tasted was Geronimo Spiced Marinated Skirt Steak, a plate that’s a true work of art. The steak, wrapped around a salad in a perfect circle, was well-cooked yet still juicy, soft, and incredibly flavorful. The avocado salad and mushroom escabeche could have been a dish on their own rights, as they had the perfect balance between the acidic dressing and the soft and sweet avocadoes.
The Mixed Grill Molcajete is a show-stealer; Franco explained how it is not only served in but also prepared and cooked in an authentic hot lava rock bowl. The smoked tomato sauce is still at a roiling boil when it is set on the table. Inside is a veritable feast of grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, chorizo sausage, black beans, grilled tomato and red onions, nopales cactus, Oaxaca cheese, scallions, and chimayo peppers. This earthy, meat-heavy dish is perfectly balanced by its pairing with side of light cilantro rice and fresh 100% corn tortillas. The texture and taste of the shrimp were excellent and we couldn’t stop going back for them. The chorizo was well-spiced with just the right amount of kick and a fantastic paprika taste. The addition of the cactus was a really fun element, being a new culinary experience; it was a first for all of us and we enjoyed it. Although the dish is meant to be a more authentic take on fajitas, we mostly forwent the rice abandoned the rice and tortillas in favor of eating straight from the bowl. Even at the end of the meal, the heat-retaining bowl was still steaming.
The Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl is Geronimo’s most popular vegetarian dish on the menu: a roasted spaghetti squash filled with grilled vegetables, black beans, roasted corn, rice and Oaxaca cheese, smoked tomato and Chimayo sauces, and pico de gallo. The spaghetti squash was perfectly cooked, adding just the right bite to balance the softer texture of its toppings. Every bite was flavorful and varied, and ultimately tasted as great as it looked.
The Pork Relleno is a cooked pepper stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth Chimayo-braised pork and cheese, topped with Mexican crema, pico de gallo, black beans, and a smoked tomato sauce. The beans were fresh, firm and sweet, and the sauce could have been a dish all on its own, reminiscent of a smoky, creamy tomato bisque—we kept going back for spoonfuls of it by itself!
The Lobster Infladita was a puffed masa tortilla with chilled poached lobster sitting within it. There was a vibrant green jalapeno-cilantro-avocado sauce coating the rest of the plate. Although normally not a fan of lobster or jalapeno, the dish does a wonderful job of bringing out the best parts of both. The crunch masa provided a satisfying crunch when paired with the soft lobster meat. The lobster itself was light and just the right amount. One of the best parts was the sauce. The vibrant green color was such a great visual to see on the plate. It not only looked good, it was also delicious and also very light with elements from the jalapeno and ciltrano really shining through. An aspect we really enjoyed was working through the masa to get to the lobster underneath. Overall, a really light dish that would be spectacular on a hot, humid summer day.
The Baja Shrimp, a trio of soft 100% corn tortilla tacos with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale beer-battered shrimp, took its place among the best tacos we have ever tried. The soft shell tacos were really tasty and the overall taste was well balanced between the shrimp and fresh toppings (cabbage, guacamole, and chipotle ranch). We were pleasantly surprised by how light the fried shrimp felt, thanks to the beer batter that ensured it didn’t feel greasy or heavy. A plate perfect to share among friends or to indulge on your own!
For dessert, we tried the the hot churros and silky, homemade, vanilla ice cream. The churros were rolled in cinnamon sugar, piped with either chocolate, nutella, or dulce de leche, and served with dipping sauce options of rich dark chocolate, creamy vanilla, and a surprisingly refreshing strawberry.
From their exquisite presentations to their locally sourced fresh ingredients, all the dishes we were served during our visit were beautiful inside and out. We were impressed by the friendliness of every staff member who were ready to answer all of our questions and share their personal stories with us. From the award-winning chile to their unique take on fajitas, Geronimo is a must-try for those craving a delightful meal of true Southwestern cuisine!