Chili, Shmili. How about a tongue taco?

Cincinnati Bites
Enchiladas at Jalapenos Mex-Mex

Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011
Note: the following review is for a restaurant that has since closed.

El Establo is a Mexican restaurant located in Silverton at 7133 Montgomery Road, next to Silverton Cafe. They're the new tenant of a building that, for more than a decade, housed a Chinese restaurant.

We'd been anticipating El Establo's opening for more than a month. There are few Mexican restaurant options in the Kenwood/Silverton/Deer Park area; the next-closest are El Rancho Grande seven miles up the street and El Pueblo in Blue Ash. I'm hoping that will soon change. The latest Census numbers show Hamilton County's Hispanic population has doubled over the last decade and we can all benefit from the added culture, particularly on the culinary front.

Alas, El Estabo didn't take the taqueria-style route I'd hoped for. But their approach to Mexican and Tex-Mex is still something one can embrace and enjoy; there's no sense looking down our noses at them just because they aren't preparing the same food Taqueria Mercado serves.

We stepped into a place that beared little resemblance to the dingy-white Chinese restaurant that once made its home here. The interior was large, open, with striking burnt-orange walls, a couple faux-brick archways, one fetching Mexican-themed mural and minimal wall hangings. Familiar Latin-American music emanated softly through speakers.

I did a double-take at the full-sized cut-out of the Dos Equis guy staring back at me. For a split second, I thought he'd saunter over to us and say, "Welcome to El Establo. Allow me to escort you to your table and, as always, 'Stay Thirsty, My Friends.'"

Instead, our waitress led us to a booth in the half-full dining room. An empty bar was nearby where I was surprised to find no TVs. It seemed like they'd want to better utilize it to help draw business, particularly because we had visited in the midst of the NCAA tournament. Their bar would be a great spot for sharing a plate of nachos and knocking back a few while watching hoops --a nice alternative to the more crowded bars sharing the same block.

The obligatory-but-appreciated warm chips and mild salsa were served as we perused the two-sided, laminated menu. It was not as overwhelmingly expansive as we've seen in other area Mexican restaurants, but it hit all the essentials: tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, carnitas, tamales and chili rellenos.

I'd usually go for an enchiladas mole, but I couldn't find the sauce on their menu. My backup plan was a seafood entree. Pleased to see something other than shrimp listed, I chose the blackened tilapia, which came with a side of Spanish rice and a vegetable medley. As expected, my girlfriend went for the veggie enchiladas, replacing her refried beans with an order of charro beans.

Blackened Tilapia w/vegetable medley and Spanish rice

The food arrived in less than ten minutes and looked tasty. I could have used more blackened seasoning on my fish--it was a much lighter shade than what you'd expect from a truly blackened protein and lacked the charred crust you'd find in such a preparation. Still, the fish was moist, cooked perfectly and worked well with the pico de gallo-style topping (though my dish was missing the chipotle cream drizzle described on the menu).

My vegetable medley of yellow squash, zucchini, spinach, carrots and mushrooms was the same medley used in the girlfriend's vegetable enchiladas.

The side of charro beans were well seasoned and quite pleasing, a nice alternative to the standard refried beans. Our Spanish rice was a little on the dry side, but still packed good flavor.

Vegetable Enchiladas w/Spanish rice and charro beans

I liked the sour cream and cheese sauce on my girlfriend's enchiladas, which thankfully had been applied with a light hand. She didn't care for the sliced carrots in her enchilada mostly due to their harder texture, which seemed to clash with the other softer ingredients. A shredded carrot may have been more appropriate here. But she really enjoyed and appreciated the variety of vegetables, particularly the spinach and mushrooms. It's relatively rare to find a Tex-Mex restaurant that offers good vegetarian options beyond just beans and rice.

El Establo offers satisfying Tex-Mex and Mexican entrees. We're hoping the menu will expand and evolve over time. It's good to have another Mexican option, and at $20 for two people, their prices are hard to beat.

El Establo on Urbanspoon
El Establo

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






Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Very 90s Lunch: Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop
    -posted Sunday, November 19, 2017
  2. No-Nonsense Italian: The Spinning Fork
    -posted Monday, October 16, 2017
  3. A Mediocre Lunch at Firehouse Grill
    -posted Sunday, October 8, 2017
  4. Southern Indian Impressions: Udupi Cafe
    -posted Saturday, September 23, 2017
  5. New Downtown Korean Restaurant: Haru
    -posted Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    yes!
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • 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
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design