Restaurant Review: Cinco

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It almost seems redundant to write about Cinco. Relatedly, I could probably sum up the new Downtown quickie Mexican restaurant with this single sentence: If you like Chipotle, you'll love Cinco.

Because from the familiar assembly-line setup to the abbreviated menu of burritos, tacos and salads constructed with a few stewy meat options and reliable add-ons, Cinco is obviously - almost shamelessly - a chip off the old Chipotle block.

The difference? Cinco is locally owned.

That Cinco is already packing 'em in like nobody's business - wait, make that like Chipotle's business - only shows its savvy owners' aims were to satisfy an obvious need for a very Chipotle-style eatery at Broad and High. But as far as speaking to Cinco's aims - maybe I should make that Ames, because Lori and Kevin are at it again.

FYI, those Ameses I'm referring to are the brains behind current Downtown success Cafe Lola, but also the former Frezno, Dagwoodz and the originally revamped Press Grill. So they seem to know a thing or two about a thing or two. With Cinco, they've shown they certainly know how to crib from Chipotle.

So at Cinco, $5.25 buys three tacos, one large salad (made with all romaine lettuce), or a massive dumbbell of a burrito. Each of those rapidly built entrees gets filled with the customer's preference of "steak" (a real fiesta of flavor - like a salsa-modified terrific pot roast), pork (juicy, tender, right-on), chicken (I found it recently to be dry) or "cilantro-lime rice and black beans" (good).

A few ways that Cinco distinguishes itself is with its many interesting salad dressings and salsas. For instance, I'll loudly hail Cinco's spicy Caesar dressing. It's thick and rich, with a potent garlic punch and an expertly moderated chili kick, cheesy edge and anchovy accent.

I was also impressed with the spicy tomato vinaigrette. Its brightly acidic tomatoey flavor would probably even be good on shoelaces.

And I'd call Cinco's version of hot salsa a Goldilocks condiment - in other words, not too hot, not too mild, but just right. It's herby, earthy and tangy and had a spot-on sear of smoky chili heat (from chipotle peppers, ironically). Plus that salsa didn't only deliver the zing but also provided a concentrated tomato flavor. Smart, huh?