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Just Opened: J-Social
101 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
The wizard behind the super successful J-Hall closed the NKY club and opened his new Jefferson Social at the Banks. Unlike J-Hall, the social is not a band/dance club it is a casual bar specializing in tacos. Situated in a corner location, the spot couldn’t be better. Wondering how it’s doing I took a look at urbanspoon for reviews. WOW, a meager 52% rating and only 1 of 7 posts were positive. It appears that J-Social isn’t up to par in food or service according to the public. I know full well the public often only bothers to post bad reviews, so I needed to see for myself.
Walking in, the space is open and airy. One side opens to the street adjacent to the sidewalk patio. We looked around and waited for a server. I spied three chatting together but they paid me no mind. A manager watched and rushed over to the servers, obviously kicking them in the ass to get on the ball (servers are often contemptuous beasts who require a bit of beating from time to time). Thankfully the manager was astute.
We were greeted and seated outside. When asked for a drink order I tested the server’s chops by asking “What do you have on draft”. Our server said “It’s all on the board” and pointed to a chalk board. I walked over to the railing, squinted and barely read the list. Piss poor play little lady. You only have ten beers to remember. Memorize them instead of being lazy and just pointing to hand written chalk letters 25 feet away. Knowing what you have for sale is your job. Better yet, learn the brews and try to sell one. You have a bar stocked with wonderful products, now go sell them.
After choosing a Yuengling I ordered one of every taco on the menu. She quickly came back with my drink, and brought my food shortly after. There are two house made sauces on the tables; A bright & clean cilantro lime and a fruity sweet spicy mango habanero. Both are excellent. J-Social could easily sell these by the bottle (and I think they should).
The tacos came out looking quite appetizing. I was a bit disappointed with the oversized uncooked flour shells though. They were obviously right out of the bag. I am used to nice grilled shells, corn preferably. Until recently I’ve never seen any other kind served in restaurants. Much like any other “sandwich”, much depends on the bread quality, or shell in this case. These simply don’t make the grade in a joint of this caliber.
Tearing off all the excess shell I got down to the meat. First the pork. Mildly spiced tender meat with a corn & bean topping. Much of the mild flavor was over powered by the thick floury shell. Even though eating the filling with a fork revealed decent flavor, just not enough of it. Their amazing table sauce turned it around though.
Next, the beef taco. The slow cooked beef, green pepper & tomato filling looked rich & savory but again, it was somewhat smothered by the raw flour taste. Forking it out of the shell, a “Pot Roast” flavor stood out strongest. Spices were too mild to stand out though. A quick splash of the mango habanero fixed that fast.
Then, the chicken taco. “Pulled” dark meat with pickled onion. It was sweet with a subtle kick. The onion strips would have balanced it beautifully but there were too few to do it proper. This one got a healthy slather of cilantro lime and woke right up.
Next, a fish taco. Deep fried fish batter featured a serious beer flavor (I liked that). It had a serious crunch too. The fish itself was mild & flaky. It tasted fresh. Oddly this one had a bit of a stiff stale shell. Nonetheless, it was one of the best tacos of the order. The toppings were bright and I didn’t even need to sauce it up. Though I proceeded to anyway, just to eat more of the hot sauce.
The veggie taco looked surprisingly good. Big chunks of squash, zucchini & cherry tomato made for a bright colorful filling. This one was very tasty overall and especially good considering it was 100% veggie. It’s hard to do good tacos veggie and I think the filling here had merit in both nutrition and flavor. They were filling as well.
Finally, the “Supreme”. It was the only corn hard shell. Well seasoned ground beef. Fresh shredded lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream and cheddar. This is a classic style American taco most are familiar with. It featured the boldest flavors of all. But I sauced it up anyway. If you like traditional gringo style tacos, order these. After my food was all gone, I continued licking sauce off a knife repeatedly until my check came. Honestly! Do ya’ think I dig that hot sauce?
I Like J-Social, but I must admit the tacos desperately need better quality, well cooked shells. A corn shell would be an option worth bothering with too. I’ve come to expect high quality from the Jefferson Brand and this new joint shows all the signs of promise (aside from the simple shells). It has a fresh look, a great patio, a plethora of damn fine drinks and a solid concept. However, the menu revolves around the tacos. They need to be the star of the show! Up the ante on those shells and grill them to perfection. It makes a world of difference. Imagine if Terry’s Turf club sold the same great burgers, but on Wonder bread. That’s what I’m talking about.
There is more to the menu than tacos. I haven’t got that far yet, but when I do I’ll tell the tale. Jefferson Social has only recently opened. They don’t even have a web site as of yet and bugs are getting worked out for sure. I hope they take my advice on those shells ‘cause I intend to return and I do love a good taco. Perhaps The Social could take a few cues from the always awesome La Mexicana (on Monmouth). If they served tacos of that caliber, in their location, they would be over run, with food sales and good reviews. If not, oh well. They have a hell of a lot of good beers and that will suit me fine.
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