Review: Condado Columbus Commons
If memory serves correctly, the demise of the taco trend was personally predicted two years ago. At the time, tacos had already spread from their ubiquitous trucks to placement on every restaurant menu, in every form. Taco Tuesday was just too popular to last forever. Surely it had jumped the shark.
Good thing nobody told that to Condado.
The prediction was clearly wrong. That happens. Happily, the consequence of the wrongness is eating my words, and that is not a bad thing at all. Food is a great consolation.
Condado didn’t jump the shark. In fact, it expanded earlier this summer from its Short North home into a spot alongside Columbus Commons. You walk into the new digs, immediately and firmly convinced you have found THE place where THE cool people hang out. The interior is tattooed, across the cement floors and up the wall in a colorful Day of the Dead Mexican theme. Tall tables and a big bar offer a place to sit and think about your taco selection.
The general idea is to craft your own taco creation from a list of options: pick a shell, pick a meat… you know how it works. Crafting your own, however, makes you somewhat responsible for how the combo turns out. We can agree that I don’t need one more thing to be wrong about. It’s just better for the kitchen to decide the optimal taco combos, and there is a small selection of tacos that allows just that.
Starting at the top of the menu is The Ramsey ($4). Per the menu, it starts with a “Goody-Goody” shell: skinny flour tortillas with guac and sour cream. The guacamole seemed to be absent, but the rest of the combo was busy enough that it wasn’t really missed. The filling of the Ramsey is based on a sweet shredded brisket that boasts a honey-ish accent. The taco also has a nice mess of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a creamy chipotle sauce.
Next on the menu is the El Santo ($4). That one is built on a “Sweet Lucy Shell”: two thin tortillas (one a floppy flour, the other a crunchy corn) are melded together with a little cheese inside. The rest of the taco flies on that awesome foundation: chunks of chicken, mired in a generous supply of guacamole with the lettuce and tomato and onion.
Although compulsively orderly, the chronological schtick ends now: the third taco listed (George’s Dirty Taco) doesn’t sound particularly awesome. Apologies to George.
Further down, there is a bowl option. That’s different. Called the La Cha Ka La Bowl ($4), it includes layers of rice, black beans, grilled portobello slices, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and corn salsa (that seems pretty much to be straight-up “corn”). This one is probably a one-time hit. It’s not nearly as flavorful as the tacos, it feels sadly one-dimensional.
We probably should have just stuck with chronology and tried the Dirty Taco.
Having gone off the rails, there are some other worthy tacos on the menu. Two at the end, Poncho’s Ghost ($3) and Herve Villechaize are also good moves: Herve is a soft-shelled chicken offering, amped up with pineapple salsa and a spiked barbecue sauce. Meanwhile, Poncho punches harder, teaming pulled pork, red cabbage and chihuahua cheese with the addition of some spiked ghost pepper sauce.
You can round things out with little sides such as Bacon Refried Beans ($1.50) or Guacamole ($2). They’re both okay, if not particularly interesting. The beans are smooth, and although not particularly bacony, they are somewhat spicy. The guacamole is a straight-shooter, with little chunks of tomato and a zingy citrus accent.
The bar boasts a big selection of tequilas (categorized as standard, premium, super premium and ultra premium), and can make a margarita in variants that range from blood orange to prickly pear.
The installation at the Columbus Commons can be found at 132 South High Street and is open daily from 11am until 2am.
For more information, visit www.condadotacos.com.
All photos by Walker Evans.