Licking our lips and cleaning the plate.

Cincinnati Bites
Gordo Burger from Gordo's Pub and Grill

Posted Sunday, April 30, 2017

Let's face facts: Cincinnati needs another taqueria like a hole in the head. Still, there's something to be said for having a good one in your own back yard rather than having to travel to Newport, Over-the-Rhine, Fairfield or Madisonville. Taqueria San Marcos, which is tucked on a corner of a mostly residential swatch of Carthage Ave. in Norwood, fits that bill.

The small, drab-white, unassuming fašade belies the fun, fire engine-red 50's diner theme awaiting inside. Upon the suggestion of fellow area food blogger Heather (aka "The Food Hussy,"), we stopped by to give them a try.

San Marcos' dining room is small, showcasing about four or five booths and bar seating. There was evidence that they may be expanding soon. We sat down and perused a very comprehensive menu that, in addition to tacos, includes full dinner plates, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and more. The menu is quite meat-centric: there are only a few vegetarian options here but they are available.

huge torta Chicken torta: gigantic and amazing bread

My girlfriend chose the chicken torta, a Mexican sandwich filled with refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, avocado and mayo stuffed inside a very impressively light and fluffy "Mexican bun." I focused on the list of tacos, whose available fillings included most of the usual suspects like al pastor, chicken, barbacoa, carnitas, tongue, tripe and fish, But there were also two variants I'd never seen before in Cincinnati: a chorizo/steak combo known as "campechanos" and an adobo, chili and tomato-marinated chicken variant called, "pollo adobado." I eagerly choose one of each, as well as an al pastor taco.

Within minutes, we were presented with our lunches, dumbfounded and jaws dropped as we marveled at the sheer size of my girlfriend's torta and its amazing bread. It was a monstrous sandwich. We've had tortas before, but there's absolutely nothing we could recall that ever looked or tasted like this. The magic of this sandwich was definitely in the bread: it was light, airy, a bit sweet and paired perfectly with the savory components it contained. The chicken was tender and juicy, the avocado adding another satisfyingly filling nuance, finished with the vinegary bite of the pickled jalapenos and refreshing hunks of tomato. Even after collaborating, we came nowhere near finishing it.

tacos Tacos: chicken adobado, al pastor and campechanos

My tacos arrived sporting classic street digs, each reinforced with two corn tortillas and topped with onions and cilantro. The chicken adobado was far superior to virtually every chicken taco I'd ever had (the exception: Chilango's Chicken Tinga taco). The spicy, tomatoey sauce and caramelized bite of the grilled chicken made it an easy favorite. The campechanos taco, with its combination of chorizo and grilled steak, was mildly spiced and satisfying. My tasty al pastor taco came with hunks of marinated, grilled pork and onion.

Taqueria San Marcos is the kind of modest, local hole-in-the-wall we've been itching for.

Taqueria San Marcos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Taqueria San Marcos

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.5 out of 43.5 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:
    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: they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design