One Bad Night Doesn't Nullify Nino's
I’ve probably been to Ninos Mexican Restaurant more than 100 times in the two-plus decades I’ve lived here. So what happens the one night I go for a review? I have one of the worst meals I’ve ever had there.
Listen, I know Nino’s isn’t on anyone’s short list for the best Mexican food in town. Nino’s is an old-school, made-for-gringos Mexican restaurant. There’s still some black wrought iron lurking here and there. So, no, it’s not where the cool kids eat. And, no, it’s not necessarily where the local Hispanic folks eat. Although, they certainly show up for the Salsa dancing a couple times a month. But I’ve been going back to Nino’s for as long as I have because its consistent, managed inventively and has some of the best chips and salsa in town.
I know it’s a small thing, but chips and salsa are my dark lord. If you get that right, you’ve got me. If you don’t, I won’t necessarily be put off, but it puts a lot more pressure on the food that follows. While you usually have to ask for a salsa other than one that’s initially put on the table at most local Mexican restaurants, that’s not the case as Nino’s. It’s actually got some heat with a brave amount of garlic in the recipe. They also were one of the first in memory to have Mexican-style relish.
At Nino’s, the tank is usually two-thirds full before I get either fajitas or some combination plate. They do specials that I like, too, the Taquiza in particular. It’s a platter of various street-style tacos.
Based on the good experiences I’ve had with Nino’s specials, I was anxious to try that evening’s special, the Parillada. I’d had the dish at other places before, which essentially is a mixed grill, and had never had a bad experience. Nino’s version included both beef and chicken fajitas with a couple of Mexican-style pork ribs.
Now, full disclosure: I’d had ribs at Nino’s twice before about five years ago. The first time, the ribs were tender, spicy and dashed with lime juice. I couldn’t believe my good luck. So, the next time I was in I ordered them again. The result was not as successful. The ribs were overcooked. Thus, ribs were removed from the usual rotation, which once also included Lomo Saltado. Nino’s was the first place I ever had that dish, not knowing until the last couple years that the only reason Nino’s has it on the menu is because they had a Peruvian cook many years ago. Unfortunately for Nino’s, that was the same point I discovered Lomo Saltado at Zarate’s, Mamaveca and now Inca Trail.
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