Man, what a scene! Young beautiful people floating around at the valet pick-up, youthful glamor mingling in the bar, and a full-on beauty pageant procession descending to the lower level tables where chairs were pulled out and proper girls sat. Chino Latino is the place to go to see Minnesota high fashion; the place to go to see strappy sandals and sequins at forty degrees; the place that feels more like a night club than restaurant. It is not, however, the place to go if you’re a vegetarian in the mood for an easy meal on Friday night.
In this sentiment, I deviate from the past. I used to love Chino Latino for the party vibe, the mojitos and the salsa music blaring through the speakers. It was my minute-in-Mexico get away. We would order a couple of mojitos, the Ecuadorian salad and the ‘Popocatepe,’ (fries covered in salsa, guacamole and sour cream) and we were happy, but tonight I left a little disheartened. They have changed the Ecuadorian salad to a plum salad with mixed greens and fried wontons – not a great pairing with our Mexican embellished french fries. Instead we asked if we could order the fish tacos without the fish – you know, vegetarian style. I had in mind the flavor and texture of the fabulous Tofu Tacos at Cafe 28 in Linden Hills. Unfortunately, the cooks were unsure about what to put in a vegetarian taco, and I was unsure about what they could make. When the waitress asked what we would like instead of fish in the tacos, I thought to myself, “A chef who knows what to cook.”
I don’t like having to create the menus when I’m out for dinner, and I’ve never been one for special orders. In the past I have respected the creative license of the chef, and eaten whatever has been vegetarian. Other than meat and pasta, I am not a picky eater. I’m getting tired of mediocre food, however, so my new tactic is to ask for things to be made vegetarian. This is proving to be a bit of a hassle. I can understand cooks not having time to deviate from their line and routine, and nobody knows what to cook when they haven’t given it proper consideration. I don’t want to tell the cooks what to prepare for me, and they shouldn’t have to be creative when their main focus is to get the food out in a hot and timely fashion. Again, there really needs to be something fabulous on every menu for vegetarians – Not a second thought, or an easy alternative, but something wonderful and undeniable.
I shouldn’t complain too much because on a menu of well over thirty items I could have had a vegetarian burrito for $18.00, a small plate vegetarian enchilada, the plum salad, smothered fries or chips and salsa. Doesn’t that sound appetizing? You can get nearly every kind of meat on Planet Earth in this restaurant, including guinea pig, but apparently not many people want to eat anything without eyes.
Overall Chino Latino has a great scene. It’s a fun place to watch young beautiful people, and it has killer mojitos! I would not recommend it from the vegetarian perspective.