101 E Freedom Way
Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Banks in Cincinnati are first and foremost a nightlife spot, with the spattering of bars here aimed mainly at attracting an evening crowd as well as the thousands of fans who visit the nearby sports venues throughout the year. In this atmosphere, a variety of upscale casual restaurants serve, a healthy mix of bigger chains and local operations. Jefferson Social is planted on the corner of Freedom Way, and its audience is the craft beer loving crowd, with brews aplenty on its menus. But the spot also serves up some great Tex-Mex specialties, notably high-end tacos, which make it a spot worth dining at, too.
Tacos are king at this spot, with each one carefully put together with a great mix of veggies and cheese to give it a little flair. My favorite tacos:
- Carnitas: This taco features carnitas, or a kind of slow roasted pork, topped with a green salsa verde and pickled onions. The carnitas speak for themselves, they need some of that veggie mix to make them shine. That green salsa, though, adds some heat to the dish, and then the crisp onion gives it a distinct sendoff.
- Barbacoa: Barbacoa, a sort of braised short rib, this time topped with veggies and pico de gallo and accented with a bit of cilantro and cheese. So barbacoa has a strong flavor by itself, what’s interesting is how the cilantro reacts with it in the dish; the strong pork flavor permeates, and cilantro gives it a nice distinct finish.
- Blackened Shrimp: The shrimp themselves are mild so the taco is defined by two flavor-packed saucy toppings: chipotle slaw and mango habanero sauce. Noticably warmer than the other tacos but still good without overwhelming with the spice.
The crowd here varies by when you come. In the evenings, the spot is much more packed, and I honestly don’t recommend coming in to eat on the weekend nights. The bar is standing-room-only like many of the others at The Banks, and just about everyone is there to drink and watch sports. You’ll feel crowded. But show up during the day and you will have a much more pleasant experience. The food can sometimes take a bit longer than average to come, and it can sometimes take a minute to find a seat, but these things are to be expected on The Banks. The concept adapts to that world well.
All in all, though, if you know when to come in, I think you can have a good experience.
- The tacos here are what’s best, so grab a few different takes on them; each is pretty cheap.
- Like the rest of the banks, this spot is a restaurant during the day, and a very crowded bar at night. I don’t recommend trying for it late on weekend nights.
- Try the blackened shrimp taco if you like that warm heat.