Crack Tacos from La Chinita Poblana

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There’s a really cute story about Chinita Poblana and how she brought Asia to Mexcio or Mexico to Asia or something.  And maybe over dessert you can read about it on the back of the carryout menu, because it really is a good story.  But La Chinita Poblana doesn’t need a good story any more than it needs tables or chairs or a bathroom or waitresses.  Their tacos are just off the chain and that’s all there is to it.  IMG_1643

The tacqueria, which occupies the prime location just off Broadripple Ave previously owned by Boogie Burger, describes itself as “Asian Inspired Fusion.”  I think you probably have a sense of how hard I roll my eyes at anything “fusion,” but the combinations here work so well I’ve all but stopped cooking for myself.

It’s not just that you can get tacos, bubble tea, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate, peanut noodle salad, and hot and sour soup all in the same place.  It’s not just that they have chocolate banana egg rolls.  It’s that it’s all delicious.  REALLY delicious. And interesting.  This isn’t the kind of place you consider when you’re craving tacos- this is a place whose food you crave as it’s own genre.Photo May 17, 1 54 54 PM

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The bubble tea is actually a fresh fruit smoothie with boba in it.  My favorite used to be strawberry pineapple, but tonight the girl working the counter suggested adding coconut milk and now that’s my new favorite.  Photo May 17, 1 56 49 PMPhoto May 17, 1 47 17 PM

They also serve Jarritos, which is of course great.  The agua fresca is also wonderful-I love the strawberry limeade myself.

Guacamole is garlicky and spicy and my favorite in town, hands down.  The salsa is less of a favorite, but still good.Photo May 17, 1 49 58 PM

I’ve had the carnitas, steak, tongue, chicken, fish, shrimp, eggplant, tofu, and a variety of different specials and almost all of them have blown me out of the water.  (Shrimp and eggplant were not quite my speed.)  If it’s your first time, I’d get fish and steak.  They all are marinated with curry and anise and wonderful asian-inspired flavors, then topped with onion, cilantro, and avocado crema.  Photo May 17, 1 53 53 PM IMG_1635

I also love the hot and sour soup.  I also love the flan. I love everything.  And it’s not just me – this place offered 1000 Groupons this morning and they were sold out in an hour.  4 of them went to me.

This place has a fun atmosphere and a cool story and a great location and none of that even made the cut for this review because the food is just so damn tasty that I can’t even be bothered to care about those other things.  Please do yourself a favor and go try them soon.  And if they ever go out of business, don’t bother looking for me.  I’ve cast myself off a high cliff.

http://La Chinita Poblana on Urbanspoon

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Bakersfield Mass Ave.

I’ve been wanting to try Bakersfield since it opened about six months ago and the buzz began.  One of the things that’s been keeping me from reviewing Bakersfield is that it is usually incredibly crowded and I have very little patience for that sort of thing.  A friend of mine recently had cause to celebrate during a very low-volume time of day (about 5 on a Tuesday), so I voted to try this place out.  Photo Jun 04, 5 14 27 PM

A lot of people don’t know this, but Bakersfield is actually a chain, albeit a small chain, with at least one branch that I know of in Cincinnati.  The concept of the restaurant is ” …inspired by a city (Bakersfield, CA) known for spawning an era of music called the Bakersfield Sound. The “Sound” was a reaction to the slick, pop country music coming out of Nashville. It was firmly country but had more of a rock n’ roll influence, and was a bit less polished than other records of the time.”  This means there is always pretty loud country music playing in the restaurant.

The interior has a Restoration-Hardware-Meets-Rodeo feel to it:  it wants to be gritty and cowboy-industrial but tries way too hard.  There are giant upended barrels for tables.  That said, the whole restaurant opens to the outside via massive windows lining the front wall, which compensates for the lack of outdoor seating and makes this a great spot for a summer night drink.

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The Bakersfield theme gets a little confusing at this point  “Bakersfield CA was a small agricultural city with Mexican influence. Therefore Bakersfield will be throwing down Mexican-influenced street fare with a focus on tacos, tequilas, and whiskeys.” Now, I love whiskey, but the thought of drinking it with a taco is just plain confusing for me.  Nevertheless, they have their story and they’re sticking to it.  The menu consists of basically tacos and tortas.

Christina and I decided on house margaritas, which I had heard were good, and chips and guacamole.  I’d had their Milanesa torta on a previous visit and was rather underwhelmed, so I decided to try a taco on this trip.  I picked the crispy mahi taco with tabasco lime sauce and citrus slaw.  Christina ordered the short rib torta with caramelized onions, chihuahua cheese, arugula, black beans, and roasted tomatillo salsa.

I’ll start, as did our meal, with the positive, which is that our drinks and guacamole were outstanding.  The guacamole comes in a cup that looks small but must contain two whole avocados.  This guacamole is one of my favorite restaurant guacamoles-giant chunks of avocado, lots of garlic, no raw onion.  Aces.  Photo Jun 04, 4 30 26 PM

The margaritas were perfectly sweet and salty and disarmingly strong.  Even with the chips and guacamole, I had to walk this one off for a bit.  It was delicious and at $6, put Bakersfield right near the top of my list for a drink with friends.

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The meal got a little disappointing from there.  My fish taco was beautiful but tiny-literally a 1 oz piece of fish-and the taste was a bit subtle for me. And $4 for that tiny of a taco is a little ridiculous.  The whole thing was over in 2 bites.

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Christina’s torta was more substantial and reasonably priced.  The braised shortrib was very sweet and barbecue-like, but the flavors were unremarkable.  It was a fine sandwich, although nothing the more authentic tortas I’ve had.  Not that authenticity is a requirement for me at all, but don’t have expectations of a sandwich like the ones you’d get from Super Tortas.  Basically this torta was like eating a good pulled-pork sandwich.  Photo Jun 04, 4 48 21 PM

Another note, which I’m sure was a fluke but probably would have improved my experience a significant amount, was that the limes served with everything I ate seemed to be having a really rough day.  You can see in my photos:  absolutely not one drop of lime juice could be elicited into my cocktail or onto my taco.  I love citrus juice and I think limes are actually kind of a big freakin deal for a Mexican place, so I hope this was just a one-time bad order.

I will never suggest Bakersfield if a friend asks me for a good place for Mexican.  But If I’m on Mass Ave on a warm summer night and I need a drink and a snack?  Absolutely!  It’s got an outdoor feel, cheap tasty cocktails, and decent snack food.  There’s a reason this is where the beautiful people are.

http://Bakersfield Mass Ave. on Urbanspoon