Tex Mex Kent Style Explodes Uptown On Madison Avenue
About ten years a couple of artists washed ashore here in Lakewood, and we have been blessed by their presence ever since.
John and Jill Crino who met while in school at Kent State chose Lakewood for their home after deciding that the hustle and bustle of New York was just too much. Their first project was the coffee shop and art gallery, bela dubby. Named for the couple’s two dogs, it provided an ultimate get-away spot from noon until 7pm. From 7pm on it was “come as you are expect anything” music/art/poetry/comedy good times club.
While successful, bela dubby was not the dream the now family of five was hoping for. Jill, a wonderful cook in her own right, and John a well-known lover of food, had always wanted a restaurant. They had nearly moved out of Lakewood to the so-called chic area of Gordon Square after nearly selling the coffee shop to a local.
But then things started falling together for a dream come true. Taco Tonto’s, a long-time legendary place for late night food and tacos in Kent became available. Immediately, Jill called and was placed on a list of 20 possible buyers. So close she could taste the hot sauce! Damn!
Then, out of nowhere a guy named “Kevin Yohn” who was next up on the list was looking for a possible partner. Jill was introduced to Kevin and his wife Emily through a mutual friend, and a partnership was formed. The Crinos went from looking, to owning two restaurants. Immediately the Lakewood coffee shop was rebuilt with the same kind of interesting flare that the Kent location has built its legend on. While I was checking out the Kent Taco Tonto’s last spring with a friend everyone within 4 blocks who we asked where to get food said, “Taco Tonto’s!” This is an area of maybe 15 bars and restaurants. That is pretty amazing. You can read that report online at: http://lakewoodobserver.com/forum/=Taco+Tontos
Last week Taco Tontos opened with as much if not more flare than the Kent one. Jill, who is a fabulous artist, painted and did the walls, while John, a consummate handyman--his second job--did much of the build out. Kevin, who had cooked at Taco Tontos before, came and helped build out the kitchen. What we have is a faithful copy of the Kent Experience, that if you’ve never been to Kent, you will still enjoy.
When you enter, you are sucked in by the balance of art: loud and soft colors, incredibly surreal to minimalist, all expressed on the wall. A wonderful, but small full-service bar. How they got their liquor license proves that some very powerful people up there want them to succeed. Great selection of beer including 5 kinds on tap including Brooklyn Ale which was the standard at bela dubby and has grown a large following in the area.Top shelf liquor and tequila, to go with their massive selection of tacos and burritos.
Any way you can think of a burrito, they can make it. Grilled free range chicken, sweet potato, sour cream, and black beans? “No problem.” Standard beef or steak, vegetarian, and it is all there to the same high standards as Kent.
Last week I had the fish tacos, which were on sale. I am not a huge fan of fish tacos, but these were great! Refreshing, fresh, the slaw was tasty, I’ll order them again.
Another good place, just down the road from Barroco, check them out, Uptown on Madison Avenue.
Taco Tontos 13321 Madison Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107
Hours: Mon-Thu 11 am - 10 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am - 1 am
Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.