It doesn't hurt to be good-looking. This is especially true of the striking new Pico Tequila Grill, which lights up West Main Street in Bay Shore with its colorful signage and expansive front windows. Indoors, there's lots of brick, wood and metal, plus a big pop of color from a rainbow-hued fish, painted directly onto a brick wall.
In line with the voguish vibe is an impressive roster of tequilas and brews. Raise a glass to the spicy cilantro margarita made with jalapeño tequila. It hits all the right notes.
The Cal-Mex food, though, doesn't always achieve that kind of harmony, despite the high quality of ingredients. Take, for instance, owner and chef John Pellegrino's chunky, well-spiced guacamole with nachos. It would have been ideal served at room temperature rather than refrigerator-cold. What might have been a vibrant lump crab salsa is brought down by the untoward presence of over-sweet mandarin orange segments. There's balance, however, in the winning ahi tuna tostadas, wonton chips topped with roseate slices of tuna plus mango salsa, whose sweetness is offset by wasabi mayonnaise. Turkey chili, though, is rendered cloying by too much brown sugar. On the other hand, grilled "street" corn-on-the-cob, with a creamy cojita cheese topping, stands out as a triumph of simplicity -- and a must-order.
Admirably, corn tortillas are house-made, but you have to request them or you'll get commercial flour tortillas. A "street" taco with grilled beef, salsa verde, onion and cheese is a treat. So, too, is a taco of pork carnitas with pico de gallo and avocado sauce. Too much dressing clutters up an otherwise fine fish taco, so request it on the side. But you'll want to avoid the pineapple and pork quesadilla, a study in syrupy sweetness. In the case of a West Coast burrito with grilled chicken and vegetables, Gorgonzola brings a jarring note. And a special of bacon-and-crab-stuffed shrimp -- plated over lime rice and two firecracker sauces -- would have been grand if the shrimp hadn't been overcooked.
But all is right with the opulent cranberry and walnut bread pudding -- a finale you want to keep eating long after it's gone.