I had Wednesday's special burrito, the Tierra y Mar ($6), which, using my rudimentary Spanish, surmised probably means "Earth and Sea." The menu claims that it contains chicken, sausage, shrimp and vegetables in a tomato-chipotle sauce. Maybe, though I didn't come across any shrimp. Still, the big, bready tortilla was overflowing with yellow rice and plenty of meat, along with potatoes and carrots. I chose rice and beans for my side, though it was redundant with the burrito filling; I should've had a salad.
A soft Chicken Taco ($2.50) dressed with salsa and served with a side of tortilla chips was enough to satisfy my 8-year-old daughter, though she felt the salsa was too runny, soaking into her taco shell and making it a little hard to handle.
My wife enjoyed her Vegetarian Burrito ($5), which was stuffed with delicious, al dente black beans, redolent with the aroma of bay leaf. We particularly enjoyed Javier's Lasagna ($6), which included layers of shredded chicken, flour tortillas, black beans and lots of gooey cheese -- all topped with a tomato-jalapeno sauce.
Together, we all shared a big bowl of Black Bean Soup ($2.50); it was topped with salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Rich, deep and with just a hint of spice, this was a terrific, filling soup. Accompanied by chips, it alone would make a great small lunch. Beverages included fountain sodas ($1.25) and "Mexican drinks" ($1.50), which seemed to mean an unidentified red fruit drink and "tropical" iced tea.
Javier's still does a brisk lunch trade, though the larger space handles the traffic more easily now. And the owner, Javier, is everywhere -- assembling orders, bussing tables, chatting amiably with the regulars. Given the high quality of his food and incredibly low prices, one can only expect many more regulars will be coming his way. Grade: B+
The Federal Reserve Piano Lounge and Restaurant (Fourth and Race streets, Downtown) will host wine tastings with gourmet cheeses the first Saturday of each month, beginning June 2nd from 2-6 p.m. The cost is $20 per person. Reservations are requested but not required. ... Know any cooking prodigies? Check out www.smallfriescookbook.com. Teri Campbell, a food photographer and owner of Teri Studios in Cincinnati, is running a cookbook recipe contest for kids ages 6 to 14. Proceeds from the sales will go to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (Lora Arduser)
CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: larduser(at)citybeat.com