Restaurant blends Native American and Latino cuisine

The Mom Says:

After a recent family vacation in Cancun, we found ourselves craving Mexican food and wanted to see what the Central Ohio dining scene has to offer.

After checking out menus at several places, we decided the choices at Chile Verde Cafe on Sawmill Road, a Columbus staple for more than 25 years, sounded appealing. The restaurant, which has two locations, bills itself as a fusion of Native American and Latino cuisine.

I ordered the Santa Fe ($14), which consisted of steak sautéed with corn, beans and red peppers. It was a bit like eating a burrito or taco—without the shell, which I really liked. (Who needs those extra carbs?) The meat, which was prepared in a tequila marinade, had a tangy flavor that complemented the beans and vegetables.

The dish, like many Mexican entrees, came with rice. But it wasn't the mushy, bland rice often found in other restaurants. It had a good texture and was flavorful.

I also tried my husband's chile rellenos (two for $12). Although not something I typically would order, I really enjoyed it. The spicy pepper was nicely offset by the light breading and rich sauce.

The meals were large and filling, and the boys and I took leftovers home.

Still, we decided to share dessert. We ordered Key lime pie ($5.50), the eatery's signature dessert, and a spicy chocolate brownie ($5) that was a special that week. Both were amazing. The pie was the right mix of tart and sweet. The center of the brownie, which was served warm with ice cream, was gooey and delicious.

—Melissa Kossler Dutton

The Kid (Age 13) Says:

I was starving when we got to Chile Verde, so I was really happy when the waitress brought a big bowl of chips and dishes of salsa to the table. I've made salsa at home—it's one of my favorite snack foods—and could tell that what they were serving was really fresh. The salsa was thick and full of tomato chunks, and it tasted a lot better than the thin, runny kind you sometimes find at the grocery store. I'm not sure if they make their own chips but they were really good, too. They were very thin and crispy.

For my main dish, I decided to try the traditional chimichanga ($13), which is like a fried burrito. I ordered mine with chicken in it. I was eager to try it because the idea of frying the flour tortilla sounded exciting. I liked the way it tasted because it had more texture than a normal burrito. It could have made it chewy and mushy, but it arrived nice and crispy.

My dish came with a side of pinto beans, which is not something my mom serves at home. I thought they were a nice touch with the burrito. It also came with rice that I really enjoyed because it was well-seasoned.

My favorite dessert was the brownie because it was so chocolatey. The center was still warm and it melted in your mouth.

I'm not sure when my family will get to go back to Cancun, but I'm hoping to return to Chile Verde soon.

—Nick Dutton

The Kid (Age 11) Says:

The first thing that caught my eye on the menu was green chile mac 'n' cheese. It sounded delicious but my mom wondered if it might be too spicy for me. Our waitress, who was really friendly and kept refilling our drinks without being asked, said the dish was pretty mild. She also offered to have it made without the chili peppers.

I went ahead and ordered it as is, and had them add pork ($12). It definitely wasn't too spicy. In fact, in some bites, I hardly tasted the peppers. The richness of the cheese paired nicely with the pork. Next time though, I might order it with a different meat. I also liked that it had salsa on top because the bites with a bit of tomato were really yummy.

I was tired from camp that day and did not eat too much. The waitress came by and asked if it was too spicy or not good. I really appreciated her kindness and I assured her that it was great—I was just not that hungry.

Interestingly, when my mom reheated it for me the next day for lunch, I think it tasted even better. It seemed cheesier and more flavorful.

When I saw that the restaurant was featuring a brownie prepared with cayenne pepper for dessert, I really wanted to try it. If you've never had this, it might sound weird but chocolate and a small amount of cayenne actually go really well together. I had a brownie like this in Mexico and really liked it. This version was better because the cayenne pepper taste was consistent in every bite, which really adds pop to the flavor.

We also ordered the Key lime pie, which was very fruity and flavorful. It's definitely a good option if you can't get the brownie.