Cantina Laredo

A concept that hails from Dallas, Texas, Cantina Laredo has since expanded to a few key cities all over the country, typically finding its way into upscale shopping centers, airports and commercial centers. An open concept busy with decorative earthen pots, hanging lights and a massive bar that serves up refreshing drinks of all kinds. The menu is ‘Modern Mexican,’ a version of Tex-Mex that is cleaned up a bit and served with higher-notch ingredients. The locations often end up being large-size very busy establishments, but they don’t make for a bad place for a happy hour.

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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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Bakersfield

A hot, rising chain of taco bars with locations in several cities, Bakersfield is a trendy bar that finds itself in the hippest part of town. Bakersfield OTR in Cincinnati, is a centerpiece of Over-The-Rhine’s active nightlife scene. The taco bar has plenty to offer with its particular brand of cuisine, whether you want familiar toppings or some of the more exotic stuff rarely found elsewhere in Cincinnati, you’ll find it here. You’re almost certain to have a significant wait to dine at Bakersfield, but the food, I think is worth a try.

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Steel Cactus

While the South Side in Pittsburgh has traditionally been beat known for its nightlife, many of those popular bars crowded during the weekend also have some of the most interesting restaurant concepts emerging in the city. Steel Cactus, a colorful Tex Mex concept, brings simple, high quality dishes like tacos and burritos to play with excellent ingredients for a delicious result. Steel Cactus might look like a spot you’d only frequent for a drink when the game is on, but it’s got an interesting set of foods to try that should not be ignored.

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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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Adobe Gila’s

Adobe Gila’s is a small but far-flung chain of four restaurants in Dayton, Columbus, Chicago, Illinois and Orlando, Florida. With the eccentric theme of a large salamander climbing on the roof, Adobe Gila’s is an upscale bar with numerous specials and activities from trivia night, 50 cent drafts and themed parties all nights of the week. Aside from a sizable menu of drink specials and draft beers, Adobe Gila’s also has a mixture of bar foods and tex-mex dishes. Wings and burgers served alongside quesadillas and burritos. It makes for a very unusual experience; few bars have such a menu and a theme.

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Casa Nueva

Opened in 1985 by a group of experienced restauranteurs, Casa Nueva Restaurant, Bodega and Cantina is as much a social experiment as it is a place to grab a bite to eat. A worker-owned cooperative, the restaurant currently employs 23 “worker-owners” serving up Mexican cuisine infused with distinctly Southeast Ohio flair. Casa Cantina is many things; it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as well as serving as a bar and nightclub in the evenings, where live bands and raves can often be found. It’s difficult to define exactly what the main purpose of the business is, but it gives a lot to the community.

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Cazadores Mexican Restaurant

Right off Interstate 75, Cazadores Mexican Restaurant in Franklin is one of three restaurants in a small chain along the highway’s southern Ohio corridor. The small restaurant offers an atmosphere for all ages, with areas for large parties, families, couples, and a bar. The menu is full of standard tex-mex fare with a number of specialties to choose from.

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