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One Bad Night Doesn't Nullify Nino's

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The Parillada was the special during my last visit to Nino's. It included beef, chicken, ribs and sliced potatoes.
The Parillada was the special during my last visit to Nino's. It included beef, chicken, ribs and sliced potatoes.

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.

Mmmm, relish.
Mmmm, relish.

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.

On my most recent visit to Nino’s, the ribs were worse than the last time several years ago. These were not only overcooked, but tasted like they’d been overcooked the day before in a large kettle of water. I asked for some lime wedges to take the edge off, but it was in vain. I daresay the holy trinity of bacon, cream cheese and avocado could not have exorcised the demons that willfully ruined those innocent, once-promising pork ribs.

Luckily, the beef and chicken fajitas were up to snuff. Whereas I actually recommend Nino’s beef fajitas, I can’t say the chicken version is much more than average.

Lori's vegetarian taco salad looked like it spent a little too much time under a heat lamp.
Lori's vegetarian taco salad looked like it spent a little too much time under a heat lamp.

Lori had her usual taco salad, replacing the beef with rice and beans. We go to Nino’s once or twice a month. She gets that taco salad prepared this way without fail, and she loves it every time — until our latest visit. She reported something was amiss. By the looks of it, the whole concoction looked like it sat for too long under a heat lamp.

My son went for the all-you-can-eat beef tacos, which is Nino’s current Tuesday promotion and answer to Taco Tuesday (oh, don’t go threatening to sue somebody Taco John’s). One of the things I like about Nino’s is their constant variety of specials and fearlessness when it comes to tweaking the menu or updating it with the times.

On Tuesdays, the Nino's on Northwest Expressway offer all-you-can-eat tacos.
On Tuesdays, the Nino's on Northwest Expressway offer all-you-can-eat tacos.

He reported no complaints, but by the look of them these tacos couldn’t possibly have been beyond the scope of what Tacos Bueno, Mayo or Bell serve en masse. A time or two every year or two, I’ll get nostalgic and order a combination platter. I vaguely remember eating a crunchy ground beef as part of that impulse. In my recollection, the tacos were ranked contenders in that league.

While I feel obligated to share the experience in my visit intended for review, I will also tell you that single tough night in the kitchen will not stop me from those monthly Sunday evenings to the Northwest Expressway location, which was part of a Taco Tour feature I did for my college newspaper in 1989. I feel confident I’ve had a lot more bad nights than Nino’s has in the time in between.

Have you been to Nino’s? Tell me what you thought.

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Related Photos
 Mmmm, relish.

Mmmm, relish.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-dc321ec56a39b5cbc0598e15598191d5.jpg" alt="Photo - Mmmm, relish. " title=" Mmmm, relish. "><figcaption> Mmmm, relish. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0c06e99e378d948b8f27c0f7c8d654a4.jpg" alt="Photo - On Tuesdays, the Nino's on Northwest Expressway offer all-you-can-eat tacos. " title=" On Tuesdays, the Nino's on Northwest Expressway offer all-you-can-eat tacos. "><figcaption> On Tuesdays, the Nino's on Northwest Expressway offer all-you-can-eat tacos. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b1ba446dff9f236989d51487fbbaee52.jpg" alt="Photo - The Parillada was the special during my last visit to Nino's. It included beef, chicken, ribs and sliced potatoes. " title=" The Parillada was the special during my last visit to Nino's. It included beef, chicken, ribs and sliced potatoes. "><figcaption> The Parillada was the special during my last visit to Nino's. It included beef, chicken, ribs and sliced potatoes. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d933eb5b8f6592a2bdb3fd665b92feab.jpg" alt="Photo - Lori's vegetarian taco salad looked like it spent a little too much time under a heat lamp. " title=" Lori's vegetarian taco salad looked like it spent a little too much time under a heat lamp. "><figcaption> Lori's vegetarian taco salad looked like it spent a little too much time under a heat lamp. </figcaption></figure>
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