Category Archives: Mexican

Charritos Mexican Grill

New Mexican restaurant in Upper Arlington

Cuisine: Mexican
4740 Reed Road #103
Columbus, 43220
614.929.5866

The opening of a new Mexican restaurant typically merits the same attention as the opening of a new Subway, and with good reason – if you’ve had it anywhere else, you’ve almost certainly had what the new place has to offer. The code of the American ‘Mexican’ food palate has long ago been broken, and the resulting template is impressively well established locally.

Charritos, however, bucks the trend. Sure, you can find sizzling fajitas, but you can also get real, street-style tripa and lengua tacos, or even a tlayuda. Even Mexico City-style spit roasted al pastor is on offer.

Mexican restaurants in Columbus

In other words, it’s true Mexican food with the occasional nod to more dominant local sensibilities. And, it’s quite good, which is unsurprising – as we understand it, the owner and his family run several restaurants under the same name in his native Oaxaca.

We first caught wind of this place when a friend suggested that the al pastor was better than at Los Guachos. Yeah, that’ll get our attention. We tried it in a chicana, which is a politically correct naming alternative to Guachos’ gringa, and we had to agree that it was damned solid rendition. The al pastor was impressively tender, nicely flavored, but lacked the flame kissed crusty bits that put Guachos over the top… at least on our visit. Beyond that, it was pure classic gringa/chicana satisfaction through and through.

Chicana at Charritos Mexican Grill

The tlayuda was a pleasant surprise, first because they had it at all (it was a special) and second because it was so different than what we’ve found elsewhere in town. The shell was distinctly unique – thicker, crisper, and overall better. The local preference for chorizo was not recognized, and a seriously tender asada took its place. Black beans coated the shell as usual, but a smattering of white beans finished it off on top. It’s a solid alternative to the more common (as in, two places carry it…) version.

Charritos clayuda

Ditto for the tripa, and the lengua, and on and on. The flautas were particularly enjoyable, stuffed with what appeared to be tinga-style chicken. The caldo de mariscos has never been my favorite dish, but it was at least as good here as anywhere.

flautas at Charritos Mexican Grill

In other words, Upper Arlington just got a taco truck cleverly disguised as a strip mall restaurant. Use it as such, and enjoy taco truck quality food in the comfort of a warm dining room this winter.

La Plaza Tapatia

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4233 Shoppers Lane,
Columbus, OH 43228.
(Close to the intersection of Broad Street and Georgesville Road behind the Westland Mall)
614.276.2806

Click here to map it!

We’ve been remiss in not posting about La Plaza Tapatia. We actually thought we had written about this restaurant/market combo before, but as we can’t find the post we apologize for holding out on you.

First the market: Plaza Tapatia is one of the largest Mexican markets in Columbus. It’s also our favorite. Consistently clean and well stocked, it features an impressive fresh butcher’s counter, an in-store bakery, and a large produce section. Dried goods, a snack counter and a fascinating kitchen-ware section round it all out. Some of our favorite things to purchase include: freshly made chorizo,  Koki’s tortillas (often freshly delivered and still-warm!), extremely cheap limes, avocados, freshly squeezed OJ, tres leches cake, paletas (Mexican popsicles) and pork rinds. More generally, though, we like that when we’re looking for a Mexican cuisine ingredient, no matter how obscure, we’re reasonably confident that we’ll find it here.

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The adjoining restaurant is open 7 days a week and during the week (Monday-Friday) they offer a large buffet for both lunch and dinner (9am-9pm). The buffet is divided into three sections: the first consists of soups, entrees and hot sides.  The second section is fruit and desserts. The third section is garnishes, salsas and tostadas. Warm corn tortillas are included with your meal and are brought to the table.

plaza_tapatia

The buffet varies a lot from day to day and there’s a wide repertoire of dishes. Highlights have included posole, pork in green chili sauce, Oaxacan beef chili, pork chops with spinach, huevos with nopales and sopes. There is always a variety of proteins that may include pork, beef, chicken, fish, eggs and beans.

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In addition to the buffet there is a large a la carte menu with lots of meat and seafood options as well as an all day breakfast menu. The most popular dishes, especially at weekends are the parrillada and molcajete.

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The parrillada (pictured above) is a true meat feast. While the menu claims that it feeds 3 to 4 people, we hardly made a dent in it with a group of 3. It consists of grilled chicken, two different cuts of steak (carne asada and aguja nortena), house-made chorizo, head-on shrimp, fresh pork chops, smoked pork chops, nopales (cactus), onions and jalapenos and is served with rice and beans, salad, guacamole, salsa and a seemingly never ending supply of tortillas. All of this for the more-than-reasonable price of $40.99. Don’t fill up too much on the chips and salsa beforehand.

The molcajete ($20.99) is comprised of the same elements but designed to serve two.

If you’ve saved any room there are also desserts from the bakery including their exceptional freshly made churros.

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We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of what we’ve eaten here over the years, and the fact that we’ve returned with some frequency might serve to bolster your confidence in that assertion… especially when you consider all of the fantastic taco truck offerings in close proximity.

Which is not to say that the taco trucks aren’t still enjoyed – they most certainly are – but rather that their offerings are inherently limited by their format. Tapatia does a great job of expanding the wide variety of the flavors of Mexico that can be found in Columbus.

It should also be noted that the restaurant does have a liquor license and serves a good range of Mexican beers and tequilas. They also serve margaritas, micheladas, and other Mexican cocktails. On Sundays you’ll often find Norteno or Mariachi bands and the restaurant can get quite lively when there’s a big Mexican soccer game on. It’s a spacious restaurant that can easily accommodate larger groups.

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Bionicos El Grullo

juice bar columbus

Mexican juice and yogurt bar
4640 Cleveland Ave.
614.405.4189

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Bionicos de Grullo is a juice bar run by Yaneth Martinez. She’s the sister of Jorge and Oscar Martinez, owners of the popular taco truck Taqueria Jalisco – which not coincidentally is parked in the Bionicos de Grullo parking lot. If you like taco trucks (and theirs is a good one!) but aren’t a fan of sitting outside in the heat in the summer, this is worth noting.

bionicos columbus

‘Bionicos’ are fruit salad and yogurt sundaes that you can customize with a choice of toppings like granola, nuts, dried fruit, candy, and chocolate chips. El Grullo is a town in Jalisco.

mexican fruit and yogurt

As well as the bionicos, Yaneth offers freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices: beet, carrot, orange, celery and grapefruit, and you can order them straight or as combinations. She also served coffee, agua frescas like horchata (rice water) and jamaica (hibiscus water), and licuados, which are a smoothie milkshake hybrid. One of the specialty drinks is a non-alcoholic sweet and thick pina colada.

pina colada licuados

Unsurprisingly, the reasonably sizable juice bar also acts as a seating area for Taqueria Jalisco patrons. You can place your order at the truck and they’ll call inside to let you know when it’s ready. And if you want something to snack on while you wait, Bionicos has are duros – deep fried pasta chips which you can eat with hot sauce.

mexican snack food

La Favorita

mexican food columbus

Cuisine: Mexican

Sawmill Center Shopping Center
(approximately 7370 Sawmill Road – North of 270)

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The former (and original) La Michoacana has changed both name and ownership, but the menu and the food are mostly the same. We still love their Michoacana style steak (see original post below). La Favorita offers daily specials including the excellent carnitas (roast pork). Other specials are caldo de res (beef soup), caldo de pollo (chicken soup), caldo de albondigas (meatball soup), siete mares (seafood soup), pozole (pork and hominy soup), menudo (tripe soup).

ricos caldos columbus

One new item we discovered on our recent visit was tostada de cueritos (pickled pig skin). This is apparently a popular summertime dish. It’s not actually skin, it is strips of fatty cartilage beneath the skin which are boiled, braised and pickled and then served on a tostada.

bizarre foods in columbus, authentic mexican food columbus

Our original post is below:

best Mexican restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Mexican

Sawmill Center Shopping Center
(approximately 7370 Sawmill Road – North of 270)

Click here to map it!

La Michoacana is a chain of Mexican markets – some with food service – that are found all over the city.  We’ve been to quite a few of them, ate at at least one, and concluded (to put it diplomatically) that the chain’s core competency lies on the grocery side of things.

Ccontrary to that conclusion, not all La Michoacanas are created equal. We’d heard from several people that the Sawmill location was unusually good, but put that info on the back burner until our most trusted source for all things Mexican practically begged us to join her there.

We did.  Making our way through the grocery section, we found our seats in the dining area at the back. Our server came to take our order, and we put in for a Michoacana-style steak, an order of carnitas (a weekend special), a milaneza torta, and a bowl of menudo (also served only on weekends).

We tried the Michoacana steak dish first, and it was good. Surprisingly tender, flavorful, salty and best with a generous squeeze of lime. We were already sold.

But then we tried the carnitas and it was the best we’ve had in Columbus. Not really roasted pork, this is more like confit of pork and it’s highly cravable. I should add that the beans, simple as they may seem, are also excellent at this modest little grocery store.

The Menudo here is the hangover cure of choice for Mexicans all over the city and again deserving of superlatives.

La Michoacana also does a great job with it’s Tortas and other taco truck fare. The NW of Columbus is sadly lacking in taco trucks, but this is where Dublin residents can fill their taco truck food cravings. This is the Hawaiiana torta with ham, pineapple, milanese (breaded steak), hot dogs, cheese, salad and avocado. Did you know that Mexican hot dogs are generally made with chicken?

If you have a sweet tooth there are some dessert offerings by the cash register and a freezer case of paletas (Mexican popsicles).

As it turns out, this La Michoacana was the first of many in town. The family that started the chain has long since sold off the rest of the locations to others – which probably goes a long way towards explaining the conspicuous variations among them. While all are great places to shop, this Michocana is the place to eat!

Los Guachos Taqueria

al pastor columbus

Cuisine: Mexican
5221 Godown Road, Columbus 43235 (just north of Bethel)
614.538.0211
Open Sunday- Thursday: 11am-midnight, Friday- Saturday: 11am to 2.30am

Click here to map it!

After much anticipation, the new Los Guachos bricks & mortar restaurant has finally opened for business. Prior to this, Los Guachos had been one of the most popular taco trucks in town and they now join Super Torta in being part of an exclusive group that has expanded their mobile vending popularity into the realm of sit-down dining. As with Super Torta, they are continuing to operate their truck in its usual location as well.

al pastor tacos, gringas

The dining room at Los Guachos is small, seating perhaps 30, and was already packed and buzzing with activity at 2:30 in the afternoon on its second day of operation. You can, and might prefer to, call ahead for take out orders during peak hours.

Los Guachos’ new restaurant features all of the favorites from their truck – including their ‘very famous’ gringas and al pastor tacos – as well as an assortment of new menu items. If you want your al pastor to be spit-roasted, aim to get there after 4pm – before that al pastor is cooked on the grill.

gringa los guachos taqueria

New offerings include three burritos: El Favorito (a classic burrito), the Guacho Burrito (al pastor and pineapple) and a vegetarian burrito. They also have Juanas (sincronizadas) which are two grilled flour tortillas sandwiching melted cheese and meat – very similar to the quesadillas. There are four types of Alambres, messy but delicious make-it-yourself affairs, similar to fajitas with melted cheese. Another new addition is volcanes, a crispy corn tortilla with melted cheese and your choice of asada, al pastor or suadero.

Protein offerings are expanded as well, and now include asada (steak), tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue), suadero (steamed beef) and pollo (chicken). As well as sodas and water Los Guachos also offers horchata (rice water).

Los Guachos (the truck) is well known for its ‘buy-one-get-one’ Tuesdays. At least for now, the truck will be the only location offering that deal.

There is also a childrens’ menu with mini quesadillas and burritos.

Note – Los Guachos is reaching out to vegetarians with their veggie burritos and quesadillas.

Mi Bandera

1965 East Dublin Granville Road
Columbus, OH 43229-3508
(614) 888-9510
Open 9am – 9pm

Click here to map it!

Mi Bandera, a Mexican/Dominican restaurant, is perhaps not the easiest place to go through the process of getting a meal. It’s of the ‘restaurant in a grocery store’ genre, which in this case means that the cook acts as server and basically otherwise fulfills all of the other roles (including bus boy and dishwasher) that one might expect in a restaurant. Consequently, service can be leisurely – and as far as we can tell they don’t speak a lick of English on the restaurant side.

Be that as it may, it’d be a shame to pass Mi Bandera by based upon these relatively superficial difficulties, so I’m going to suggest a path of action that requires no real knowledge of Spanish and should almost inevitably lead to contentment (if not outright devotion):

First, as you enter the front doors of the grocery, turn right and look for the seating area. When there, you should see a prep line (with a kitchen further back) and a long vegetable cooler on the opposite side. Go to the counter with the heated food case (in front of the prep line) and put on your best ‘I’d like to order’ face.

Then, wait for the cook to take notice. He’ll probably make eye contact well before he’ll take your order. This is how it goes here – at this point, faith in the deliciousness of the end experience may be useful. Once he comes to take your order, he’ll probably ask, “aqui o llevar?” This means ‘for here or to go’. If you’re eating there, respond ‘aqui’ (ah-KEY), and for ‘to go’, ‘llevar’ (yay-VAHR).

Now, place your order. We’re going to direct you towards one failsafe dish – ‘chuleta de puerco’. Say ‘chew-LAY-tuh day PWER-koh’, and follow with ‘por favor’ (pore FUH-vore, this means ‘please’).

Next, take a look at the beverages at the end of the heated food case in the cooler, or if the selection there seems too limited feel free to go to the grocery side and look at their more extended offering. I’m partial to the Foco coconut juice, but anything goes.

Once you’ve got your drink, find a seat on the restaurant side and take in some of Telemundo or similar being shown on the TV. Note how the cook might occasionally come out to the vegetable case to pluck a pepper or some onions for your dish.

As the dish comes out, you should expect 2-3 thin-cut pork chops (quantity depends on size of chops), beans, rice, lettuce, and avocado on a large platter, and a basket of tortillas on the side. Cut a few generous slices of pork (don’t remove the fatty edges – they’re the best part!) and put them on a tortilla. Add some beans, and really just about anything else on your plate you’d like. Fold the tortilla up like a taco, and enjoy.

The pork chops have a smoky, almost vaguely bacon-y flavor, and the beans are as rich and delicious as any we’ve ever tried. Upon first tasting it, one of our friends declared Mi Bandera to be her ‘new pork chop place’, and we’re pretty sure she’s been back weekly. Come to think of it, we probably have as well… they’re that good.

Hope you thought so as well. Having finished your meal, now go back to the food case and ask for the check. The word ‘check’ is usually understood, but a sign language pantomime of writing with a pen on a pad will work as well. Take this check to the check-out line in the grocery and pay there.

With that, you’re no longer a Mi Bandera rookie. Probably a good time to let you know that while Mi Bandera is heavy on Mexican offerings, they’re Dominican run and also serve island specialties such as maduros (ripe plantain), tostones (unripe plantain, smashed, fried, and salted), and Dominican empanadas.

Also worthy of attention are their chilaquiles (CHEE-lah-KEY-lays):

By and large, Mi Bandera is not a stop that caters to vegetarians, with the possible exception of a few side dishes such as the plantain preparations. Prices are reasonable, with all dishes we’ve tried coming in well under $10.

Panaderia Guadalupana

Cuisine: Mexican

1977 E Dublin Granville Road (161)
740.417.0644

Click here to map it!

Panaderia Guadalupana opened days before we were finalizing the itinerary for our Columbus Food Adventures alt.eats tour and, mercifully, became the answer to the question of how and where to end the tour on a sweet note. We have long enjoyed the Mexican bakeries on the west side (Otro Rollo and Oaxaquena) but this is the first independent Mexican bakery we have found on the North side of town. It’s a really good one.

Colorful cookies and cakes such as tres leches and chocoflan (vanilla egg custard baked on top of chocolate cake) are found in a refrigerated case on the right hand side as you enter. Breads and pastries are in an alcove at the back of the store.

Panaderia Guadalupana has a huge variety of recipes they rotate among, and on any given day there will be around 25-30 bread and pastry options to choose from. The most popular breads (pan dulce, conchas, bolillos) are ever present but the flavors of the empanadas and pastries vary daily. Prices for most of the breads and pastries range from about $.85 to $1.10. Everything is very fresh and the texture is light and airy. Grab a pair of tongs, a tray and make your selection. Then take it up to the counter to be bagged.

One of our recent finds was this jalapeno, cream cheese and turkey roll which was almost a meal in itself.

Panaderia Guadalupana has a big space with lots of windows, seating, wifi and even a couch area. What they don’t have at the moment is any coffee. Once they do, I think this will be a popular spot for people to hang out and work. At the moment it’s a great place to pick up some excellent baked goods, freshly baked each day.

The cinnamon roll is a hungrywoolf favorite. You can see a few shots of Panaderia Guadalupana and their food in this video.