Fifteen dollars for Poutine? Hoser.

Cincinnati Bites
Buffalo Springfield Mac and Cheese from Keystone Bar and Grill

Posted Friday, March 19, 2010

Nearly coinciding with the opening of the new mega-Walmart on Red Bank Road was the opening of El Jinete Mexican Restaurant, located right next door. El Jinete, which translates to, "The Rider," makes no attempt at hiding the fact that it's all about the Tex-Mex: cowboys and steer heads dominate the design of their menu and logo.

We arrived on a late Sunday afternoon for dinner. Bright streamers adorned the exterior, running down adjacent lamp posts to draw attention to the restaurant's grand opening. The host quickly smiled and greeted us with the obligatory "Welcome, Amigos," as he led us to our booth.

The place seemed large but was sectioned off into cozy, private nooks; our section was semi-enclosed with wagon-wheel "portals" serving as windows to the neighboring dining area. A couple small TVs were nestled in strategic corners and the place still smelled faintly of new lumber, leather and plastic.

Within the first minute, a basket of crispy, warm tortilla chips, a carafe of salsa and two miniature bowls arrived at our table. The salsa tasted fresh with a nice spice and wasn't "ketchupy" like past restaurant salsas we've endured.

The menu is an awful lot like those one finds at other area Tex-Mex joints. There are three folds, each with items on the front and back. It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but we soon realized it's filled with most of the usual, Americanized, "safe" Mexican fare. You've got your burritos and enchiladas here, your fajitas and quesadillas there, and a large seafood section that is 90% shrimp and 10% imitation crab. Several items alluded to the use of liquid cheese. I was fully expecting the worst or, at most, a mediocre meal.

My girlfriend ordered the spinach enchiladas, which came with Mexican rice and sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce and guacamole on the side. I was interested in their "Enchiladas Yolandas," which were three chicken enchiladas with the same side dishes. One could choose between the standard enchilada sauce or a verde sauce, but I didn't see anything on the menu hinting at the possibility of Mole, the rich, mildly bitter, somewhat chocolatey sauce I enjoy. I asked the waiter about it and, to my delight, he said they could accommodate my request.

The food arrived inside of ten minutes and we were both quite pleased with the presentation. My girlfriend frequently orders vegetarian enchiladas when we visit a Mexican restaurant and all too often she suffers from an overabundance of cheese. She therefore appreciated the restraint shown with her enchiladas, enjoying the rich spinach and onion flavor.

Spinach enchiladas from El Jinete
Mole enchiladas from El Jinete

My chicken mole enchiladas were tasty, as was the refreshing guacamole and fluffy Mexican rice. Given that it wasn't listed on the menu, I wondered whether my mole was homemade or of the jarred variety. It was good, in any case.

Service was prompt and courteous, but the waiter's heavy-handed splash of cologne served as a makeshift detection device. I could smell his presence long before I caught sight of him. It wasn't so much revolting as it was distracting. It was like having the power to see into the future. I knew, seconds before it would happen, that he was about to arrive and ask us if we'd like more salsa. I was amazing my girlfriend with my transient gift of foreknowledge.

El Jinete Mexican Restaurant seems to be off to a good start, offering familiar, well-prepared Tex-Mex. Eat a large Mexican platter, then walk off your meal strolling through the new Walmart behemoth or the nearby Master Pieces Antiques shop.

UPDATE 11/2011:
El Jinete seems to have become quite successful since we first reviewed them; the restaurant is now frequently jammed-packed full of families, screaming kids and is generally an unpleasantly loud atmosphere. You can't really fault the restaurant per se; it's just too bad that we likely won't be visiting again due to the excessive noise.

El Jinete Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon
El Jinete Mexican Restaurant

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






Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  2. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
  3. Hole-in-the-Wall Quest: Taqueria San Marcos
    -posted Sunday, April 30, 2017
  4. Schnitzel Impressions: Bauer Farm Kitchen
    -posted Wednesday, April 5, 2017
  5. There's a New Taqueria in Town: Chilango Fresh Mexican
    -posted Sunday, March 19, 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