Fifteen dollars for Poutine? Hoser.

Cincinnati Bites
Deluxe Pizza from Marion's Piazza

Posted Sunday, July 10, 2011

Before Chipotle's corporate tendrils had spread through Cincinnati, there were few really good burrito joints. Habanero was easily one of the most popular. These days, burrito restaurants are a dime a dozen. But despite all the competition, Habanero still holds its own. They even have their own food truck to tap into the latest craze.

The Clifton-based burrito restaurant has been feeding a local community spiked with UC and Cincinnati State students since late 1999. The place hasn't changed decor much, although wall hangings from local artists get a regular rotation. Walking into Habanero is like meeting an old friend wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Given its consistently younger clientele, Habanero can't help but transport me back to my college days. The restaurant always has an eclectic musical selection piping overhead; neighboring tables often echo lively, grandiose debates heavily influenced by whatever philosophy or poly-sci courses patrons may be taking at the time.

Habanero offers seven signature burritos to choose from, as well as an assortment of salads, quesadillas, chimichangas, tacos and tostadas. My favorite menu item has to be the "Mad Max," not only because I love crazy loon Mel Gibson's movie, but because its burrito namesake is jam-packed with plump, fried tilapia, pinto beans, rice, cheddar cheese, cabbage and a creamy white sauce. The steak-filled "Arroyo Hondo" and the "Calypso Chicken" are also tops on my list, and I fondly remember the cinnamon roasted squash-filled "Chuba Cabre" from my vegetarian days.

Salsas at Habanero are among the most memorable aspects of the restaurant. There are six to choose from, each with its own distinct flavor and heat component. One thing Habanero does not do is falsely advertise spice levels. When they tell you a salsa is hot, boy do they mean it! My lips are often left swollen and pleasantly tingly after choosing the spicier options.

Habanero's house salsa is quite addictive. It's not particularly spicy, but it's got a roasted tomato/chipotle component with a uniquely smoky, slightly vinegary tang. Their thick tortilla chips are flour-based, which I think is a good choice for this type of salsa. Corn-based chips would overpower its flavor.

I once gave owner Max Monks shit about the tilde appearing over the word, "Habanero" in his logo. Max conceded there really shouldn't be one, although when he first opened, a Cuban friend of his had told him there was and so he stuck it on the logo. Several nitpickers like me have since pointed out the error.

When pronouncing the word, the "H" should be silent, with a hard "N," like "ah-bah-NAIR-oh." Instead, even the most seasoned chefs and Food TV stars pronounce it, "hah-ban-YARE-oh." It's like nails on a chalkboard, amigo!

Then again, I've always been a little high-strung. Just take a deep breath, sink into a booth and bring a Mad Max lovingly to your mouth.

Habanero on Urbanspoon
Habanero

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. Mediterranean Musings at Milya Cafe
    -posted Sunday, July 16, 2017
  2. Pastrami Impressions: Shapiro's Delicatessen
    -posted Wednesday, July 5, 2017
  3. Chinese Impressions: Fortune Noodle House
    -posted Saturday, June 10, 2017
  4. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  5. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (http://grillofindiaoh.com/).
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design