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Milford’s newest Mexican

La Cazuela Mexican Grill & Bar
1067 Old Ohio 28 Milford, OH 45150 (513) 965-0200

If you read last month’s La Bamba article, you can appreciate my unfulfilled taco craving. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a Mexi-food joint that dishes up the real deal on the menu. Enter La Cazuela.
Milford’s latest eatery looks much like the rest; strip plaza storefront, terra-cotta colors over faux adobe walls, Mexican blankets and sombrero’s. Lonesome ancient Mexi-ballads over the speakers etc. The menu looks much like the others as well; 14 sections loaded with every combination of Ameri-Mexi fare you can imagine. Out of all the headings, one stood out... “Authentic Cuisine”. I was seeing rays of sunshine through the cloud of Mexi-Menu BS. Seven items were listed; Flautas, Chilaquilas, Tortas, Carna Asada, Milanesa, Acapulco Taco and Chili Colorado. Ok sure, the flautas, chilaquilas and tortas are seen on the tables of Mexico. The rest, I’m not so sure. That taco isn’t even the real deal. Looks like rain after all.
Then on the next page I see “Mexican Grilled Tacos” At last! I ordered the platter (three tacos, rice beans & salad $10.50). You can choose from chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, fish, chorizo or al pastor. I went with fish. They came out looking sad. No char on the tortillas, not even “grilled” (They either steamed or microwaved them). Minced mild fish, bits of onion, a dash of cilantro. Plain flavors, raw tasting tort, overall sad sad sad. I ate all three anyway. They grew on me. The obviously scratch made hot sauce was a huge help, I never add sauce to good tacos but these needed it desperately.
The rest of the platter was what you’d expect from a Ameri-Mexi joint. Canned looking bean mush and red instant rice were so so. The tomato, onion, cilantro, lettuce, guac & sour cream salad was the star of the show. All the veggies throughout were snappy fresh. They saved the dish by bumping a D entree up to a C.
My co-defendant opted for a chimichanga platter. I couldn’t have cared less what Ameri-BS she ordered as I also spied a tamale in the side order section. That and the taco would make or break the place to me.
The tamale was ordered chicken but came out pork. When I commented on the issue to the server he said “Uh yes, I think is chicken”. I forked a hunk of meat out of the middle, to give him a better look and sarcastically asked again, “Chicken?”.... He repeated, “Se, I think is chicken”. Trust me, it was pork. If I were Jewish, perhaps I would have insisted it be returned. Instead, I ate it anyway.
The sauce was odd. The dough was delicate and light. The pork was marinated and savory. The server claimed it was scratch made but if he can’t tell chicken from pork his testimony has zero value with me. It looked “bought in” by the shape, but if so, it was an ok brand. If they did make it, I give an A for effort and a D for authenticity, over all a C average.
The heaping steaming chimi platter looked massive, but failed to wow my cohort. Ameri-Mexi is fine with her, but the chimi’s barely crisped shell turned soggy fast under the thick slathering of sauce. She liked the vegetable and shrimp innards of the beasty but picked around the wrapper, leaving the ends. For $10 better food has been had (and worse is often served). Again, a solid C.
All C’s. Not an impressive grade but not deserving of a whippin’ either. Granted, the La Cazuela menu has much more to offer than I ordered. A few dishes sounded interesting to purist Mexi food seekers like me. Chilaquilas (soft corn tortillas cooked in cheese & green salsa) caught my eye. As did the Nopalitos (cactus cooked like beans). Even the chicken & rice soup got my attention. All sound worth a try as they aren’t commonly found on Amer-Mexi menus.
If you’re a hard-core gringo looking for a flaming fajita platter that gets oohs and aahs from the Friday night folk as it comes out of the kitchen, held high with all eyes on it as it sizzles past hungry diners to land on your table smoking, by all means try it. La Cazuela will woo you with belly busting platters of chicken, steak, fish and pork. All covered and smothered with bright red sauces and melted cheese. 10-12 bucks buys most any entree, and you have over 90 to choose from. There is a cheeseburger and chicken strips entree for Ameri-Only diners who may be along for the ride (or sadly... the kids). Eight veggie entrees are offered and many more can be ordered veggie. Alcohol is served 7 days a week. Service is fast & friendly.
Jewish diners beware, there’s a thin line between chicken and pork here. Dieters, don’t bother. The caloric count of every entree has to be running in the 1000’s. Authentic seekers keep seeking unless you can speak some sweet Spanish and coerce these amigos into doing it the right way (at least for you). Coupon cutting El Rancho Casa Grande Mucho Mexi lovers, line up, loosen your belt and file in. The bottomless chips & salsa are on the table (pretty good salsa too), the neon green margaritas are swirling and you ain’t leaving hungry.
As for me, I’m $30 lighter and still craving a great taco. For now I’m giving up on finding one and dead set on making a few myself ($8 makes a dozen). In the end the food that’s in the fridge can always outshine the food on the menu if you just take the time to learn how to do it. I’ll throw down in a taco show down with any “Mexican Restaurant” any day, except La Mexicana of course. 2,000,000+ people in Cincy and only 1 good taco joint. And it’s in Newport! Ridiculous!
Anyone want to invest in Cincy’s first and only true taco casa? We’ll open the first one in Hamilton’s “Little Mexico”, if it keeps the amigos coming in there we’ll know we got it right. Hire some local grandmas to pat out fresh tortillas all day, cook the meat on a spit like the greeks. Then, Hyde Park (triple the prices) and Clifton, followed by the suburbs. It could be the Chipotle of taco joints (but with a drive thru). I say we name it “No Gringo Taco”. Just a theory. I wish there was one.