I've been looking for a non-chain Mexican restaurant to go to for a while now. While the El Vaquero chain is OK, its not the best I've ever had, plus they are all invasive - kinda like kudzu. They have other restaurants under different names that use the El Vaquero menu...Cazula's Grill on campus is an example of that practice. I feel it is my duty to support the little guy who is making good food and takes personal pride in what he is making, so I try out all kinds of small out of the way joints...

Enter Cuco's on Henderson Road. I stopped in a few months ago to grab some carry out during a grueling double shift at work. At the time I chose a tamale with beans and rice for sides...$5.95 carryout. The beans were tasty. The tamales were homemade, and the rice was moist. A big plus was that the whole meal came with a big bag of fresh cooked tortilla chips and homemade salsa.

I went home and raved about Cuco's to the hubby. He was skeptical. The last time I took him to out for Mexican at Aztecas and it was awful, so once bitten - twice shy. Plus, the bar has been set pretty high since we went to Las Palmas in St. Louis - which is fantastic.

After much wheedling, I talked him into stopping for lunch while we were out grocery shopping. He went from not happy to ecstatic in the course of the next 45 minutes. First, our waiter brought a big basket of homemade chips and salsa. Tony complained that the salsa wasn't hot. So I went up to the salsa bar and got some of their other homemade hot sauces, a red and a green. While not incendiary, they were both very flavorful.

Vats of homemade hot sauce - made me wanna go for a dip!

They also had some pico de gallo and a pickled onion dish which I can't remember the name of. All were very good - the pico de gallo would have been better with summer tomatoes, but you have to work with what you have...

We also ordered guacamole - which was fresh made to order by mashing the avocados with a helping of pico de gallo. It was pretty decent.

I ordered carnita tacos - the lunch special for $5.95. Tony had commented on the fact that cheese, sour cream and guacamole were extra. I told him I would reserve judgment until they came.

Tony asked the waiter what he would recommend. "The fajitas" came the answer. Recommending fajitas to us was a risky thing - with us thinking back to all the tough flavorless meat and mounds of burnt veggies we had been served in the past. Tony looked doubtful, but being the brave soul that he is, ordered away. (We ask for recommendations from the staff to see if they know their food - its a good way to get a handle on how well the front of the house knows the back of the house.)

A few minutes later - out came our main meals.
Yes - my tacos looked plain, consisting of nothing but warm tortillas, meat, and a sprinkling of white onion and cilantro. But when I picked them up and took a bite, the meat was the star. It was perfect - moist and flavorful. The only addition I made was to sprinkle a green hot sauce on them for a little punch. The beans and rice were spot on as before. I asked the waiter if the beans were homemade and he indicated that they were - a big plus in my book.

$5.95 - can you beat that?

Tony was reticent about eating his fajitas. He looked suspiciously at the sizzling plate. He stabbed a piece of beef off of the pile and bit an end. Then he ate the whole piece. Then he started loading up the tortillas and tearing into his lunch with gusto. Yes - it was good. Some of the best I've had in years. The steak was tender and not overdone. The veggies, while charred a little, were not burnt or bitter. The sides were generous and included guacamole and sour cream. I stole some as well - there was plenty to go around.

Hot Sizzlin' Meaty Goodness

Tony insisted that we order dessert and asked for flan. The waiter said - no you want the churros. So we ordered the churros. He had been right so far, why doubt him now?

Sorry I couldn't wait!

Churros - wow. Hot, deep fried dough with caramel inside, covered with dulce le leche and cinnamon sugar with whipped cream on the side. Damn. That is all I can say. Damn.

We were so impressed that we took our friend Eric out to eat there the next night. It was still good then too... even though they were busy as heck.

So if you are looking for a reasonably priced Mexican place that takes pride in their food- I say give Cuco's a try.

Cuco's Mexican Taqueria on Urbanspoon


australian food said...

looks like i certainly need to check cuci out! thanx for the tip!!

Dave said...

Hey Rosie,
We finally made it there recently, it was wonderful. Kid friendly too.

ColumbusNeon said...

I sorta remember when El Vaquero was the "Little Guy". Now it is fairly easy to get good, cheap authentic Mexican in Columbus. By the way, those churros look so good! MMMM!

Anonymous said...

We LOVE Cuco's. Its kid friendly and we have never had bad food while there. My 5 year old loves the Salchipulpo (hot dog octopus)

Lorence, Columbus, Ohio said...

Hey,Rosie!Long time no chat. Hope you're well.
Go to agree with you re:Cuco's-love it. Before you go next time, hit their website for a coupon"

My review from last year:

Rosie said...

I am glad everyone concurs! Now I have to start hitting the taco trucks...

Thanks for the heads up on the coupon Lorence. Good to hear from you!