I drive Red Bank Road at least three times a week and watched with interest when I saw a new Tex-Mex restaurant going into Red Bank Village. I never turn down a chance for Mexican or Tex-Mex food!
El Jinete (3972 Red Bank Road, Mariemont, 513-271-4080) is the family-owned sibling of El Jinete in Taylor Mill, Ky. The interior is the typical casita-style, with murals and wagon wheels and lots of horse paraphernalia, which makes sense because “jinete” means “rider.” El Jinete is most definitely heavy on the Tex-Mex with just a little authentic Mexican food thrown in, and the quality of the food surprised me. I suppose I don’t usually expect much from a strip-mall restaurant, but El Jinete delivered.
We sat down for a late lunch on a Thursday and were surprised to see that the restaurant is larger than it looks from the outside. Little alcoves of booths and tables make it seem cozy, and there is also an outside seating area with umbrella-covered tables. We perused the trifold menu as our server filled our drink orders.
I was glad to find authentic Mexican tacos on the menu.
I’ve only been to one other Tex-Mex restaurant that offers traditional soft corn tortillas filled with meat, onions and cilantro. Usually you have to ask the server if they can accommodate your request. The options for the authentic tacos at El Jinete are small, only four different varieties. My husband chose Carne Asada and al Pastor tacos ($8.99 for three, served with rice and beans) but there are also Chorizo and Fish tacos. Meanwhile, I was falling in love with the salsa that came with our basket of chips. It’s not at all reminiscent of ketchup, which I find all too often at Tex-Mex restaurants. The salsa is made fresh every day from tomatoes, onions, cilantro and chilis and packs a mild kick.
I knew I’d have to try the queso dip ($2.99) because I have a weakness for all things cheese, and I wanted to try enchiladas. I opted for a lunch combo of two items ($6.25): a chicken enchilada and a cheese enchilada. The lunch combos are also served with rice and beans. I was pleasantly surprised by all of it.
The queso was lovely, with minced jalapeño and cumin. The tacos were perfect; the al Pastor (pork marinated in and cooked with guajillo, pasilla and ancho chili peppers and pineapple) was smoky and tender and the carne asada (steak marinated in cilantro, lime and garlic) was grilled just right. The tacos come with a house-made roasted tomato salsa that carries a wallop.
My enchiladas came covered in a verde sauce (as requested; normally they come with the traditional red enchilada sauce) and I was shocked to find that the chicken was not only all white meat but was also tender and juicy and not at all dry. The only complaint I have about the cheese enchilada is that it might have been too cheesy! The beans looked watery at first, but the taste was wonderful, very earthy and full. The rice was the typical Tex-Mex restaurant rice and was certainly tasty, though not stellar.
El Jinete came out of the starting gate strong. I look forward to making many return visits.
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