Bon Viva-what? Speak English, damnit.

Cincinnati Bites
Gordo Burger from Gordo's Pub 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


Posted: 2010-03-19 13:26:08
Totally disagree. Salsa didn't taste fresh at all. Tacos were bland, run of the mill, nowhere close to La Mexicana or (another favorite of mine) Acapulco. I doubt I'll ever go back.

Cincinnati Bites
Posted: 2010-03-19 15:16:14
Why bother to compare a Tex-Mex joint to a place like La Mexicana? Apples and oranges, as you well know. Sucks that your salsa wasn't fresh, though. Ours was! :P

Posted: 2010-03-20 11:13:08
I've been waiting for this to open - every time we got to Wally World I hope it's open...glad to know it finally is!

Cincinnati Bites
Posted: 2010-03-20 11:19:33
There's also a new Chinese joint in that same shopping center called China One. Looks like the same type of cookie-cutter Chinese hole-in-the-walls we've all seen before. But I haven't tried it yet. Website is

Posted: 2010-04-01 15:05:42
Looks good to me. Never heard of El Jinete.

Posted: 2010-04-24 08:37:28
El Jinete rocks! Great service, great food and the last time I was there for happy hour the bartender poured our margarita with a heavy hand. I will agree with jb that the tocos are bland. I think it lies in the poorly seasoned ground beef. Definitely try their quesadillas, I've been there a handful of times and imo they're the best thing on the menu. As a matter of fact, I'm going their for lunch today!

Posted: 2010-05-17 01:32:57
Actually the mole IS on the menu. They call it poblano sauce and it is home made! Their chili rellenos are some of the best I have had. I love chili relleno and always try them as a measure of a restaurant. Most fail this test miserably, bu not El Jinete. There's are not a soggy greasy mess like 99% of the other places I have tried. The chicken in the enchildas is not just pulled chicken it is actually cooked with spice and peppers. While the review is right that the menu looks like safe Tex Mex fare, the food is excellent. And to the person who compared them to L Mexicana. That is like comparing an Italian restaurant to a Chinese one. TexMex and Mexican food are NOT the same thing at all.

Posted: 2010-07-18 15:48:19
First of all. El Jinete is not by far TEX MEX. There are to be sure some "dummed down" menu items but that's not for reasons of lack of imagination or quality but I suspect it's because of GOOD business sense. This restaurant is not necessarily meant for the Mexican Clien. That said I am quite the food snob and short of Taqueria Mercado or La Mexicana this is the most authentic "Mexican" restaurant in town. To JB if you want awsome tacos... order the Tacos Al Pastor They're made of fresh pork cooked on the grill with onions and various chili powders nestled un to heated corn tortillas.... served w/ cilantro and onion and hot sauce (guajillo based) and accompanied by refries and rice.... I would suggest to anyone who may want something more "autentic" that they ask their server questions and have them suggest something...They're always happy to tweak things for me. No I don't work for them.. I just live @ the restaurant since they've opened.....
and to Cincinnati BItes.... El Jinete's Mole is mad from scratch there at the rest.! not Doņa Marias...

Posted: 2011-08-06 15:23:09
El Jinete is BY FAR, the best Mexican restaurant I've eaten at in Cincinnati!! The salsa is excellent - and my friend that is a salsa "snob" who lived in Arizona for 8 years, agreed. My husband has never been a fan of Mexcian food, and ended up at El Jinete's one day for lunch with co-workers. We have now eaten there SEVERAL times in just a few months for lunch as well as dinner, and he loves it (as do I). We have taken friends there, who fall in love as well. The dish we order is The Acapulco (they have chicken or steak), and it is AMAZING! Give El Jinete a try, and you must order the Acapulco - you won't be disappointed!!

Posted: 2011-11-19 10:52:06
China One is delicious. If you have ever had Magic Wok it tastes very similar. El Jinete is very good also and you should definetly try their taco salad. Everything always tastes so fresh. And thay call you amigos. :-)

Posted: 2012-01-15 14:20:27
My Husband and I being Californios think we know good Mexican when we see it. Their Mole,Sauces etc are from Scratch and the serves are very attentive.As far as noise yes the larger room where families are eated can be loud. Ask to be seated in front rooms or back along the wall adjacent to the larger room. The private booths are noise free.If you want a stronger spicey sauce ask for Picante(or as I call it salsa de Muerto!). The fish is always fresh with veggies-lots of healthy eating options.

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