Cinema Taco

subject: Cinema Taco
take-out vehicle: paper bag
cost: $6

1.20.10 update: Alex George has decided on a name—Cinema Taco.

Despite its opening several weeks ago, the little restaurant inside The Jefferson downtown still has no official name. Kinda unusual, yes, but honestly I don't care what it's called, just so long as they keep serving me pork empanadas.

Made daily by Alex George, formerly of Just Curry, they may not be as filling as some other foods you can buy for $2.50, but I daresay none are as satisfying. The crust was rich, buttery, and flaky, and inside there was perfectly cooked, juicy pulled pork; little al dente cubes of potato; and a wee bit of chili. Seriously, I don't know a better way to spend $2.50.

Besides empanadas (of which they have several daily flavors), Cinema Taco also serves handmade soft tacos and burritos. Today I had a fish taco (which I think is a relatively new option) with grilled cod, chipotle salsa, guacamole, red onion, cilantro and lettuce. While not quite as flavorful as the empanada, the taco was very fresh. Cradled in two yellow corn tortillas, the ingredients came together well in each bite, but I could still taste each of them individually. I'm especially thankful that the cod wasn't fried. Not only did it blend with its neighboring ingredients (whereas fried fish would overpower), it tasted really healthy.

But healthy shmealthy. Pork and butter make me happy, so as long as those empanadas are available, I'll definitely be a regular.

Oh, one more thing: When ordering an empanada, don't be tempted by the complementary papaya habanero hot sauce. It's great with the tacos, but the empanadas are perfect by themselves.

(Here's a secret from Alex George: When he first started making the empanada dough, he used lard instead of butter. I didn't find out why he decided to switch to butter, but I've got a hunch: self-preservation. Lard is just too irresitable. I bet he was afraid of something like this.)


  1. I would add: Avoid the burritos. They serve the standard awful, chewy "tortillas," piling on the rice and beans--you might as well go to Chipotle or something. Moreover, the tacos are only passable, though the inclusion of queso fresco is nice. The way to think of this place is something like the "empanada store." Sort of like Marco and Luca could be thought of as the "dumpling store." Some places only really do one thing well, so you go there for that one thing. Cinema Taco is like that.

  2. Thanks for your comment, jcoan. I agree about the burritos. They're fine if you're indiscriminate and super hungry, but the empanadas are the only way to go if you value taste over size.