Taqueria St. Marks Place

St. Mark’s in Manhattan is home to probably some of the best concentrations of ethnic food in the city and so a lot of people like to come here to try something new. When you step into the Taqueria, there are a few expectations: this is not a Tex-Mex place that uses Americanized ingredients. It goes for something more genuine, and the front of the menu makes it clear. There are no nachos, no seven layer dips, no fajitas, and they say it three times so you’re clear. There are no “cute clay or adobe plates.” There are no “adorable red, white and green uniforms.”

This place is about representing a genuine culture. And it’s delicious.

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Rodizio Grill

Envisioned as a way to bring a Brazilian style of eating to the United States in a form where it hasn’t been, the Rodizio Grill chain finds its way into upscale shopping center and mixed use developments with a lot of cool ideas. The over 20 locations promise a meat-lover’s paradise; the full Rodizio experience offers different kinds of steaks and meats roasted over a spit, then served to you at your table by “gauchos,” or Brazilian cowboys. Then you can also enjoy the buffet with a full list of hot foods, veggies, and other kinds of things. It’s a pricier experience, and one where you’ll walk away very full, but Rodizio still has a lot to offer.

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Nelly’s Chicken

This one house just south of Centerville’s main intersection in suburban Dayton has seen a lot of restaurants come and go in recent years. So a lot of people were excited when Nelly’s Chicken, the much loved Bolivian restaurant open since 2006, announced earlier this year that it would expand into the new space. Known and loved for its charcoal-grilled rotisserie chickens, Nelly’s has built a cult following in south Dayton for its small restaurant feel and unique Latin American cuisine. Now, in a larger space, the spot can finally bring its tasty food to a broader array of people in the city.

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Abuelos Mexican Food Embassy

It’s a chain of several dozen restaurants throughout the Midwest and central U.S., and Abeulos Mexican Food Embassy aims to be a higher-class restaurant with about one location in most major cities around the country. It focuses not only on the traditional Tex-Mex fare but also Spanish Tapas and plenty of other dishes. While the spot does offer an opportunity for nice surroundings and a pretty creative menu, the food here doesn’t always rise to the price points being asked for it. But still, I found the experience to be decent.

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La Colombiana Restaurante

You find a lot of Tex-Mex options in Dayton, Ohio — many using ingredients not common to either Hispanic or Latino cuisine. That has changed lately as the more adventurous diners in town have begun to seek out more interesting and exotic dishes. The newly opened La Colombiana Restaurante is an exciting example of this; the spot focuses on Colombian comfort foods — many you can’t find in any other restaurant in town — and with a simple, elegant presentation that really introduces you to things you’ve never tried before in a very comforting way.

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Arepas & Co.

The little house at 1122 East Dorothy Lane in Kettering has something of a bad reputation. It was previously La Victoria’s Burrismos, before that Cafe Mexico, Casa Amici, and a number of other concepts which have come and gone in less than a year, driven by low visibility and a lack of a following. Fortunately, Arepas & Co. has brought a following of its own to the spot, with a location set up in Second Street Market downtown, selling its Colombian comfort food, quick dishes with Latin American ingredients that can be made to go.

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El Meson

You won’t be in Dayton for very long before you hear the name “El Meson.”

Indeed, the expansive West Carrollton restaurant south of the city along the Interstate 75 corridor is one that’s hard to forget even after one visit. Not just for its colorful and vibrant interior decoration, but for the equally large menu of tapas and other dishes that can’t be found on any other menu in the city. In short, El Meson has long been considered a unique option in the city — one of the few places you can really go for something different. Even with the influx of new restaurant concepts, this spot continues to deliver.

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Opening Day Special: Cafe Mexico (CLOSED)

A brand new restaurant opened just today, actually, Cafe Mexico replaces what has previously been several bistros and Italtian-themed eateries. Departing from them, this new eatery serves up a combination of Mexican, Cuban and Latin American cuisine. The cuisine is a mixture of simple favorites and finer cuisine, a mixture of a casual theme and an intimate atmosphere. The opening day for any business is rough, and this one did have a few. But ultimately I would be willing to say it’s worth a visit for how new and unusual the food is for the area.

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A newer addition to Athens’ Court Street buggy scene, the artist formerly known as Chica Chica Chop Chop has taken things up a notch by transforming into a full-blown restaurant. Owners Todd and Tuti Wilson have kept a blog detailing the restaurant’s construction and beginnings, and it will soon be open to the townsfolk. The ambitious owners have even attracted the attention of Food Network, and the enterprising Cuban food establishment has opted for a new menu, new environment and an all-new bar concept, essentially remaking their product in the process. Ambitious, indeed.

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