The ghosts of Columbus Mexican restaurants past, present and (I'm likely going out on a stout limb here) yet to come waft through the aisles of 2977 N. High St. You see, that's the address currently housing its fourth iteration of the now-widespread genre. But once upon a time, this building was home to a late version of Talita's - our town's first real sit-down Mexicanish eatery.
After Talita's moved its ground beef, yellow cheese and bean-heavy Tex-Mex cuisine off to Grove City, an operation called Fiesta Time set up shop in the same spot. It brought in a relatively more Mexican menu along with eye-popping, tropically painted chairs.
Next up was a stunningly similar restaurant called Don Patron, and though the changes were hardly radical, it was the best of the bunch. But just like the others, it didn't last.
Enter La Patrona. Open for about a month, this place is not treading any new ground. The wild chairs are still there, as are most of the expected menu staples.
Overall, La Patrona's sort of salty food - which shoots out in scant minutes - is perfectly competent. In other words, while you're unlikely to be wowed by any of its dishes, you'd be glad to have this place handy in your neck of the woods.
And if this one doesn't last, relax, because odds are you'll probably see another Mexican restaurant here real soon. Here's a taste:
• Fajitas Patrona ($13.50): A well-executed, mammoth platter of these nicely seared, still sizzling proteins: shrimp (definitely above average); "arrachera steak" (not super tender, but not bad carne asada); and chicken (good). This came with a ton of sauteed peppers and onions, tortillas, a routine "guacamole salad" and passable rice and refried beans
• Pollo Caribeno ($12.50): This was a crowd-pleaser. A spicy, cheesy and creamy sauce (like queso fundido) covered a healthy portion of chicken curls, peppers and onions plus fresh-tasting thin slices of al dente cooked zucchini and yellow squash.
• Chile Verde ($12): Tender, fatty pork chunks and strands drenched in a tangy, spicy tomatillo salsa - what's not to like? Served with the ubiquitous guac salad plus rice and beans.
• Posole ($3.50): A decent version of the hominy soup/stew made with chicken. Unfortunately, when I ordered it, the broth was extremely salty.
• Pick three combo ($9): I got this good deal meal with three real winners - a tamal in a corn husk (nice and tender masa dough), an above-average, eggy-battered chile relleno, and a stewy and spicy barbacoa taco served convincingly with onions and cilantro.
Check out G.A. Benton's Under the Table blog at ColumbusDiningGuide.com