My wife and I have been trying to find a local Mexican restaurant close to our house in Cincinnati to replace Benny’s, our neighborhood staple in Denver. El Toro Mexican Restaurant is only a mile from our new house, in fact we would have walked there if the weather wasn’t bad. They are located in the large strip mall named Hyde Park Plaza, next to Ace Hardware and just around the corner from Kroger. The storefront doesn’t appear very large, but the restaurant is very deep and has seating for plenty. We arrived just before 7:30 on a Wednesday to find the restaurant mostly empty.
We settled into our booth seating and noticed that all the booth tops are shaped like bull horns. El toro translates to the bull, so some care has been made in designing the restaurant. Shortly after sitting down an employee dropped off some chips and salsa and some water. The chips didn’t seem very fresh but they were warm. The salsa was pretty good overall, though most of the time I prefer a salsa with more chunks in it. This was very thin, but the spice was there and the flavor was good.
Shortly after receiving the complimentary chips and salsa, our server came by to take our drink order. My wife asked if there were any specials, and fortunately one of the smaller sized margaritas was on sale. We both ordered one on the rocks with salt. When they arrived I was shocked at how large it was. According to the menu there are two sizes larger than the ones that we ordered. The taste was decent. It wasn’t heavy on either sweet or sour, just middle of the road on flavor.
For dinner I went with the combination plate #1, which includes a taco, two enchiladas, and either rice or beans (I chose beans). Overall the food was not good. The taco was completely bland, and though the enchiladas were a little better due to the red sauce on top, they still were bland. The red sauce was simply not full of enough flavor, and their chicken all seemed very dry. The beans might have been my favorite part of my plate, since they actually tasted like I was expecting. For $7.99 the amount of food was good, but the taste needed a lot of work.
My wife created her own combination plate with chile poblano, burrito, and tostaguac. She almost ordered the chile relleno but when she realized it was filled with beef she switched to the poblano, which is the same thing except with cheese filling. The poblano was better than anything else on my plate, but still not very good. It too had the same red sauce on it, which really needs work. The burrito was equally as plain and boring as my enchiladas. While the tostaguac (basically guacamole on a tostada) was probably the highlight of the meal.
I always thought that it would be hard to find Mexican food that was less flavorful than Don Pablos, but I think El Toro has done it. I really doubt that we will make the effort to return anytime in the near future. Our quest for good Mexican food near our home continues.