Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Casa Nueva

Nestled on High Street on the outskirts of OSU at the entryway to the Short North sits Condado Tacos, a Mexican-style restaurant that firmly believes in the power of tacos and tequila. Enter and you think you’ve died and went to heaven, thanks to the Day-of-the-Dead-inspired black and white murals that deck the place from wall to wall (courtesy of Finko Creative from Cleveland). Skeleton hipster riding a skateboard? Yes. Skeleton child riding a big wheel? You betcha.

It’s a dimly lit joint, with light bulb strands swooping overhead and pocket swivel seats hitching to the dark wood, high-top bar tables. There are dining tables throughout the place, and a few tables toward the back are sectioned off, protected from burning, stained glass religious candles. You’ll think you took the back entrance into a little-known dive in Mexico City.

The bar pays homage to La Virgen de Guadalupe, but you’ll be praising the sparkling “Tacos delcioso” sign that highlights the taps of over a dozen brews right below. An ale or IPA pairs especially well with the onslaught of food you’ll order, but don’t discount dark stouts. At least get a margarita, though; with fresh fruit blends ranging from blood orange to blackberry, the mason jar margs will cool down fiery palettes.

Though you’ll be sitting down to eat, the menus are setup like fax-in orders, which is amazing. Being able to etch onto the menus what kind of taco you want, what you want on a taco, how many you want of them—it’s just helps build anticipation. And the fact that they give you Ticonderoga pencils to do it with made me want to kiss the server my salsa/guacamole/queso breath. Be careful not to pepper eraser shavings in with your meal, though if you’re like me, it won’t slow you down much.

The ghost pepper salsa is tolerably spicy, in the right quantities. Be careful dipping the piping hot tortilla chips, though; if you fill up a bubbled chip with too much, add pineapple guacamole or Hersher queso. A note on the Hersher queso: combining cheese and rice to be applied to chips is the best overabundance of carbs in recent history. 

The tacos are downright criminal. If the ones I ordered and I were in a Mexican standoff, I would win outright. I defined the movie cliché in such appetizing fashion that I had to engage in an old-fashioned duel with another taco (which I also conquered). Start with one of the homemade taco creations (the Sweet Lucy, a soft flour tortilla wrapped around a hard corn tortilla, is held together by guac and queso). Add shrimp, tofu, chorizo, beef, pollo, pork, portabellas with red cabbage, or jicama slaw, sprinkle on some cheese, and top with the near-dozen salsas and sauces, and you’re well on your way to using two hands for a taco. (Bonus: tacos are a buck cheaper during their 4-7 p.m. happy hour).

And if you can fit any more food, go with the choco tacos that are infinitely better than the ones that got soggy and melted everywhere during summer days at the community pool.

If cayenne or vanilla doesn’t suit your fancy, take the soppapilla chips to go. More than likely, you’ll be back.

Condado is located at 1227 N High St., formerly Circus Bar. For more, visit www.condadotacos.com.

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