Lifetime members of the Clean Plate Club.

Cincinnati Bites
Basil Noodles from Ruthai's Thai Kitchen

Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taco Casa is one of those enduring city institutions you'd think would have died off years ago, but somehow manages to survive in spite of a culinary landscape overrun by corporate restaurant chains.

The Tex-Mex, Taco Bell-inspired business has been around well before my time, founded in 1968. There are three locations, each with its own batch of loyal followers.

The location I've most often frequented is in Oakley, across the street from Hyde Park Kroger (let the boundary arguments commence). Years ago, Casa was safely tucked between Mio's Pizza and a gas station, but the gas station is long gone and an incredibly busy Chipotle tauntingly stands in its place.

You can feel the rivalry between the two businesses: there are large signs in the comparatively sparse Taco Casa parking lot warning Chipotle patrons that they'll be towed if they park there and walk next door. You can't really blame them.

Taco Casa offers some of the most Americanized versions of Mexican food I've ever seen, Taco Bell notwithstanding. I'm not even sure it's accurate to call it Tex-Mex. Most of the food appears to be prepared from canned ingredients --though I have no idea where their meat and seafood comes from. Casa fans would say this is all part of its charm.

For as old as the Oakley location is, you'd think the menu would have an appearance of some permanence, but you'd be wrong. The sheets are tacked to the wall as though the owners plan to pack up and run off in the night. This location is to-go only, except during the spring and summer when an outdoor patio is available.

The obligatory tacos, enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas are here, but what I suspect keeps people coming back are Taco Casa's interesting "house specialties," like their unusually addictive Taco Salad, served with tortilla chips and filled with iceberg lettuce, seasoned ground beef, beans, onions, tomatoes, shredded cheese topped with ranch dressing.

The specialty I always have a craving for is the Tuna Boat Supreme, served in a plastic tub and looking a lot like a fat enchilada filled with tuna salad, cheese, onions, jalapenos and topped with the aforementioned ranch sauce.

Everything here is artery-clogging, cheesy, meaty goodness, although you can go vegetarian replacing meat with refried beans. That certainly won't help you on the calorie front.

Recently, Taco Casa added a rare new menu item: fish tacos. I'm a fish taco fiend and gave them a try. Unlike more "traditional" fish tacos you'd see in California using a white fish like cod, mahi-mahi or tilapia, these were made with salmon and not fried. Each taco was served on a single corn tortilla and topped with tomatoes, lettuce and that same ranch sauce.

Fish Tacos at Taco Casa

By the time I got the fish tacos home, the sauce had absorbed into the tortilla and made it impossible to pick up without falling apart. The fish was moist, flaky and seemed to have been prepared with a spicy rub --there was definite, welcomed heat dancing off the tongue. They're worth a try, though I'd recommend keeping them in their wrapper since one flimsy corn tortilla won't stand up to that sauce.

Taco Casa is an old stand-by whose long-standing success is thanks to the one constant in the universe: we all occasionally crave food served in a cardiologist's worst nightmare. Long live the Tuna Boat.

Taco Casa on Urbanspoon Taco Casa on Urbanspoon
Taco Casa

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 2.5 out of 42.5 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. Dinner Impressions: Envision Cinemas Bar & Grill
    -posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  2. A Taste of Hawaii: Poke Hut
    -posted Thursday, January 4, 2018
  3. Pizza in Walnut Hills: Fireside Pizza
    -posted Thursday, December 21, 2017
  4. Breakfast and Brunch Review: Wild Eggs
    -posted Tuesday, December 19, 2017
  5. Barbecue Impressions: Bourbon Smokehouse
    -posted Sunday, December 17, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Natasia Malaihollo about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thank you for the review and background on the restaurant history! I was a huge fan of huit and super disappointed when they “closed.” Was wondering what’s going on with this musical chairs of a restaurant strategy so thank you for clarifying!
    posted: Fri., Jan 26th, 2018 @ 6:50 PM
  • From Jeff about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for the thorough review! It honestly does seem like a new restaurant is opening every other day..but the thing about the wait staff..they might be getting paid a higher hourly rate because they are only open for lunch. I’ve worked at a restaurant where I was paid $10 an hour but the owner kept the tips, it sucked but sort of made sense for the lunch shift.
    posted: Fri., Dec 22nd, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
  • From heather about Wild Eggs:
    we liked it too - things are fresh and made from scratch and high quality - good experiences all around
    posted: Wed., Dec 20th, 2017 @ 10:55 AM
  • 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
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design