Shortly after I fell in love with Jed, he moved to Argentina. From that point on he had to share my love with empanadas, as it was during my visits there that I discovered this semi-circle of pastry perfection, a handful of happiness with various meat, veggie, and dessert fillings. They’re cheap, delicious, and a balanced late night meal, so I was giddy when Cinema Taco opened up adjacent to the Jefferson with a giant empanada display case front and center.
Cinema Taco has a fool proof concept: cheap Mexican and South American classics served up as lunch for downtown workers and late night food for hungry Jefferson concertgoers. The setting is whimsical with a film-themed decor, right down to the chips in the glass popcorn case and old projector on display. The setting, concept, draft beer, and low prices are perfect – the food, however, is not.
The streamlined menu offers burritos and tacos (fish, chicken, pork, steak, veggie), nachos, and empanadas, all of which need to step up their game. We obviously went straight for the empanadas on our first visit and sampled every option available. While the flavors sounded incredible – the fillings included black bean hummus, queso fresco, roasted veggies, braised pork, and braised beef – we were disappointed. The secret to great empanadas is a firm crust that contrasts perfectly with spiced oozing fillings. Cinema Taco’s crust was limp and slightly greasy tasting, and the fillings were unspectacular. The roasted veggie empanada was okay, but the pork and beef empanadas tasted like meat pies from a 1960s British cafeteria.
We tried the other menu options on our next lunch visit and didn’t find much more to love. The tacos were overly dry and needed a jolt of flavor, yet the featured papaya habanero hot sauce offered little flavor and just slightly more heat. The burrito was a carb bomb with an overly chewy tortilla and mountains of rice. While I was a fan of the freshly made limeade and the chips, and I bet that everything would taste better with a beer as a midnight dance break, overall I’d love to see a food overhaul so Cinema Taco can live up to the promise of empanada euphoria.
Jed says: “Boo!”
Rating: Erin: Jed:
Pros: Great location, low prices, late night food, quirky movie decor.
Cons: Burritos and tacos in need of more flavor, disappointing empanadas.
Price: Empanadas and Tacos $3, Burritos $5-6, Nachos $4.50-6.
Parking: None except for the usual downtown options.