If you ride your bicycle to Puesto in Santa Clara at about noon, you can find a parking spot in no time. If, however, you decide to drive your car, you’ll spend several minutes circling the parking lot. Wait until 2pm, when the crowds scamper back to their offices, and you’ll have the pick of the litter.

Parking, though, is just the first hurdle standing between you and a plate of tacos. Don’t go without making a reservation. Otherwise you’ll enter the same purgatory that the Seinfeld characters do as they wait the length of an entire episode for a table to open up.

Puesto is a chain of Southern California Mexican restaurants now serving dollops of guacamole and pitchers of margaritas in the north. The formulaic menu is reminiscent of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, another fast-casual Mexican food chain that opened in Orange County and then expanded into other markets across the country. At first, Wahoo’s stood apart from its competitors by concentrating the diners’ attention on fish. Instead of choosing to distinguish its cuisine as such, the Adler family group behind Puesto has worked closely with a marketing team and brand consultants to invent a neon-colored mythos.

Every white plate is stamped with the Puesto logo. Each dish is artfully arranged on top so that the name will appear in social media posts. Talk about brand integration! The restaurant’s exterior surfaces—all tan and bland—belie the cavernous restaurant space inside. Loud sounds echo around the interior: from the thumping soundtrack to busy servers and their buzzing patrons.

Visually, the menu and the interior design rely on primary colors that photograph well; the dominant color is not princess pink, but a deep-voiced androgynous magenta. The subliminal message is, “Everyone is welcome to drink flights of tequila here.”

To get the meal going, there are plenty of snacks, shareable plates and even four guacamole variations. At $11, the unembellished version is a small, flavorless scoop of mashed avocados. Cilantro, onion, fresh squeezed lime and orange and chile habanero are all listed as ingredients, but none of us could detect anything more than the creamy green of the fruit itself. Not even salt or pepper. Guacamole is the fundamental building block of any Mexican restaurant, and serving it underseasoned is a bad sign. Puesto may be making it as a base product so that, along with price upgrades, customers will try the doctored-up recipes with ahi tuna ($14) or mango and pomegranate ($13).

A basket of chicharrónes ($5)—described as “crackling pork magic”—arrives at the table still sizzling from the fryer. Despite being airy, they were spicy and substantial. And by dipping them into the guacamole, the crackling cools down and adds a jazziness to the spice level of the dip. Nopalitos ($5) was the other favorite starter. The plate mimicked the colors of the Mexican flag: green nopales, red cherry tomatoes and white queso fresco. It was the brightest plate we tried with the cleanest, most distinguishable flavors.

The waiter, an expert at upselling, suggested the ceviche acapulco ($16) from the restaurant’s seafood selection. Lime-cooked bass circles the plate with discs of cucumber, tomato, onion and avocado. You can adjust the spiciness with a bottle of hot sauce that comes on a side plate with a lime wedge and crispy blue tortilla rounds. Another guest described the carnitas bowl ($17) as pure comfort food. The portion of confit pork comes on a giant-sized platter filled out with herb lime rice, black beans, corn, guacamole and tomatillo fresca. It’s easy to order way too much at Puesto.

For $16, guests can choose three of nine kinds of taco. We tried mushroom veg, chicken al pastor and carnitas. Melted cheese overpowered the mushrooms and the chicken, and the taste of the pork didn’t really come through, either. Chewiness was the overall effect of the plate, the feeling of which was exacerbated by gummy blue tortillas. There is a taco of the month, but the waiter didn’t prompt us about it nor was it posted on a nearby sign.

The lunch rush inspires a feverishness in the wait staff. You can feel the atmospheric pressure start to drop as the dining room empties out. Puesto is an ideal place to eat with co-workers you want to keep at a reasonable distance. Like the shopping mall it calls home, the restaurant fosters anonymous consumption at a hurried pace.

2752 Augustine Drive, Santa Clara