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Mexican Vacation

By Lora Arduser · March 23rd, 2005 · The Dish
At lunch, we downtown corporate drones all participate in the same ritual -- rushing down elevators in search of something we loosely refer to as food to inhale in our cubicles. Most of the time our options are limited to bad fast food or the not-so-fresh salad bar in the deli downstairs.

If you can find a way to take a breath and leave your desk for lunch, however, I recommend checking out JAVIER'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT (39 East Court St., 513-381-3287). Located in a small storefront, Javier's puts out fast, fresh-tasting lunch fare that will make you forget you ever waited for chips at a table at Chi Chi's.

Javier, the owner, is often behind the cash register, joking with customers or circulating through the bright, inviting dining room, making sure everyone has what they need as they chat and chow over Mexican music.

The restaurant has the usual -- burritos, tacos and enchiladas -- but it also serves less traditional, healthier alternatives such as a weekly salmon special, salad specials and a number of vegetarian options.

Not particularly interested in being healthy the day we visited, my coworker and I decided to follow the traditional route. Even so, our choices turned out to be lighter than expected, given the cuisine. The cooks ask which fillings you want, so you can skip the cheese and sour cream on those days you can't make it to the gym. Unabashed, my coworker plunged ahead and ordered the Enchiladas con Pollo ($6) with mole sauce, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, red onion and tomatoes. The mole sauce gave the shredded chicken an excellent smoky flavor of chocolate, cinnamon and chili.

I was interested in the Gyro Burrito ($6) with lamb and tzatziki sauce, but they were having problems with a supplier, and it wasn't available. I opted for the Burrito Del Dia (burrito of the day) which was Carnitas ($6) -- roasted, shredded pork stuffed in a flour tortilla with guacamole, lettuce, tomato and red onion. It was topped with a green sauce, and I chose rice and beans as a side. The soupy black beans were a welcome change from the ho-hum refried variety, and the tender pork reminded me of a dish I had in the Yucatan that had been roasted in an earthen oven. The guacamole needed a little more lemon, but the green sauce was spicy and bursting with cilantro flavor.

I was certainly glad I slipped out the side door that day. You should try it, too. Escape your cube, stretch your legs and try a mini-Mexican vacation for your next lunch "hour." Minus the Margaritas, of course.



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