Sunday, December 19, 2010

Antojitos Criollos - Dayton, Ohio

After a very long day of stimulating the economy on Friday, I wanted to grab a quick dinner with the mister before going Krogering.  Ever since hearing about the opening of a new Puerto Rican restaurant, Antojitos Criollos, right down the street, I'd been itching to try it.  That spot across from the Eastown Shopping Center has sat vacant for at least 5 years, formerly housing the Mexican restaurant El Rincon.  

This tiny strip mall sits so close to the road that parking is a little strange. Easy enough to get into, but difficult to back out of if there's traffic on Linden.  We scored the one empty spot in front of the cleaners, but I couldn't figure out why the lot was full when the cleaners, the smoke shop and the restaurant were practically empty.  That is, until we entered the restaurant to find what I can only assume are the employees' friends and/or family taking up two huge tables in the front. We walked past them and seated ourselves, since no one else was doing it.  A girl who barely spoke took out drink order and gave us menus.  The menu was only 2-3 pages, and very limited.  The longest list was appetizers, and even most of those were just smaller versions of entrées.  The only thing I noticed that looked appealing was the empanadillas, but I turned my nose up pretty quickly at the $12 price tag.  The entrées consist of mofongo (mashed plantains w/garlic) and a choice of meat, which I think there were five of.  And that's IT.  No pollo fricasse, no pasteles, nothing. Again, most of the price points over $10, which really surprised me.  I'm known to be a bit of a penny pincher, but I know where to expect higher price points.  I can see paying $12 for an appetizer at El Meson, or even The Green Plaintain, but not a dive like this.  I don't say dive in a bad sense, either - I love dives.  I was hoping for a little hole-in-the-wall with great food and reasonable prices.  

But, I do use the words "abomination" and "shit hole" in a bad sense.  Once the waitress begrudgingly took our order and brought out our canned drinks (which loyal readers know I think is total bullshit), we waited thirty minutes without  a word as to why our food was taking so long. To boot, during that entire thirty minutes, we couldn't hold a conversation because of the ruckus being brought by the two full tables of loiterers in the front, playing cards and yelling like they learned their inside voices in a sawmill.  

When another guy gave my husband the "Are you going to be the one to ditch this place first, or are we?" look, we knew it was time to GTFO.  We would have just left a few bucks on the table for our drinks and split, but we didn't have any cash.  When we finally caught our server again and waited for her to get off her cell phone, we told her we had an emergency and needed to leave, but could pay for our beverages on a card. She didn't look the least bit bothered by losing one of their TWO paying customers, and said "Don't worry about it," and walked away.  

I can't give them a rating since we didn't even eat there, but I can tell you we won't be giving them a second chance.  
Antojitos Criollos on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with these comments. I went to Antojitos Criollo for lunch today and the service was EXCELLENT and the food was DELICIOUS!!! This was authentic Puerto Rican/Caribbean food. I arrived at the restaurant at 12:10pm and I was out by 12:30pm. The owner and the staff had a great smile and they were always checking to be sure everything was ok.
The place is small but it was very clean and all the tables had table cloth (Linens). The Chef came out and talked to the clients. It was a Great experience for me and my Friends. They all said, they want to go back every week to try all the restaurant’s lunch specials.
I rated this restaurant with a Big “A” Plus.

Posted by Julio

Vizz said...

I find it pretty hard that the above comments are unsolicited. Regardless, you never get a second chance at a first impression, Julio.

Anonymous said...

I have been to this place several times and is now one of my favorites. The restaurant has evolved in the last few months. The staff is very friendly, and the food is fantastic and very authentic. Their rice and beams alone is to die for. Some of the appetizers are bit pricey, but then the quality and taste is just great.

Big In Day-town said...

I noticed some of the good (the owner talked with us and explained the origins of the foods, etc.) and the bad (surly girl waited on us, too; the prices were surprisingly steep, but I guess I'm too used to Taqueria Mixteca). The food was just ok, though D really enjoyed the plantain cups. He has two hollow legs, that boy.

I think we'd go back, but it's not at the top of my "destination Friday night" meals right now.

Do you remember when that place was The Viet?

Eric said...

I ate dinner there last night, and you're not entirely wrong. The restaurant was full of what seemed to be friends and family of the owners, which was fine. They weren't being loud or obnoxious. The waitress was incredibly unfriendly and inattentive, and the food took far too long to be served (in addition to the long wait just to place the order). I also agree about the canned beverages, it's B.S.

We stuck it out, though, and the food was great. I think the menu's design and layout needs some work and needs to be clearer for a more Dayton, Ohio customer base. It's also got typos on it, which explains the 12 dollar empanadas. They were actually only 2 dollars. I would definitely get a take-out order from there again, but I don't think I'll ever dine there again.

My friend and I had two different mofongo dishes and both were excellent.

Michelle said...

I just got lunch from here today. I have to totally disagree with all the negative comments. If you are looking for authentic Puerto Rican is here! It is exactly what I was expecting from in a Puerto Rican restaurant. A small place to eat no frills no fancy dinning, it was Puerto Rican. Just great food in a casual atmosphere. They do have pasteles and if I didn't know better I would have thought my grandmother was in the kitchen cooking them. They were delicious!! The rice and beans were to die for and the bacaliatos were excellent!! I found exactly the kinds of food I wanted and it taste just like I remember and expected. I will be telling everyone about it because it is true authentic Puerto Rican cuisine at it's finest.

Vizz said...

I maaaaaaay be tempted to give them another try after hearing some good/mixed reviews. But, it would almost have to be on someone else's dime.

Anonymous said...

I have been here twice and I love the food. It's true that the service is not their strength and they do need to work on that. But the last time I went was a Friday during Lent and we were able to have Bacalao, even called before to make sure they had it and they did. The cook asked, so you were the one who called? I'd say that's good. If you don't like it, don't, but don't trash it!
Go trash Las Americas which serves Canned Chicken!

Anonymous said...

I am a recent arrival to the area, and when I found Antojitos thanks to a friend, I brought my whole family (my Dad is from Ponce). I've been twice and found the people to be friendly, the food excellent, and the experience to be very enjoyable.

The menu is a bit hard to follow: the entrees list appears to be limited, until you see that lots of things (arroz con gandules, pasteles -- they most certainly do have them -- etc.) are all a la carte.

The prices aren't precisely cheap, but for real-deal Puerto Rican food in Dayton Ohio they are not bad at all.

One final note: my Spanish is not everything it could be, and the staff were very kind about letting me try it out on them and not trying to push me into English. But, when I needed English, they used that too. I really appreciated that.

Anonymous said...

They were so friendly to me and my family. The mofongo was absolutely delicious too! Four Star rating!

Anonymous said...

I really disagree with the post. First off, I'm addicted to the chicken escabeche with mofongo (not on the menu). Yes, it's slow service, so we just don't go there when we're in a hurry. Honestly, I'd rather have a bunch of "friends and family" in a restaurant than a bunch of strangers - gives it a more personal feel.

If you're used to going to McD's for dinner, this place is probably expensive, but I don't think $10 is high for a quality dinner entre. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Dayton needs more "dive" spots with great food, so please don't let this one go out of business!! I'm thoroughly sick of all the chain restaurants here.

Anyway, if you're going to go to a dive restaurant, rule #1 is to always get whatever they recommend for your first time. Also, make sure to try their desserts - amazing!! (Be forewarned, one of them comes in a styrofoam cup...for those of you who think you're too good for that.)

Anonymous said...

The writer of this article seems a bit close-minded. My wife and I drove from Indianapolis to check this place out. Our entire experience was amazing. The food was excellent accompanied by friendly service. We also took 2 dozen pasteles home with us in a cooler. The pernil (roasted pork) was awesome, and so were the papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) and alcapurias. We will make the drive again soon and are bringing friends. Regarding the writers experience, Please try to understand Puerto Rican culture. Any Puerto Rican walking into that place would've known to just walk right up to their table introduce themselves, ask what they were playing, and ask what was best to eat that day. But it does seem the staff needs to realize they need to be a bit more inviting to the shy customers some times. I would recommend this place to everyone wanting to try authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.

Vizz said...

I may be a lot of things, but close-mided isn't one of them. I still find it very odd that none of my regular readers have checked this place out and had great things to say. The shining reviews are only coming from people who seem to be seeking the blog out.
The place was a dump, and had the shittiest service I've ever experienced. If any one else experienced what we did, they would have left , too. Americans shouldn't have to "understand the culture" of the country bringing their cuisine to our neighborhoods. If i'm on their turf, it's a different story. Regardless, we will NOT be giving it another chance. Over it.

Anonymous said...

Well the service might not be great but the food is great. By the way Puertorriqu~os are Americans.

Anonymous said...

So we can all agree that everyone had different experiences, some of us went there during a full-moon. I love dives and journey to differnt ones throughout Southern Ohio and when I travel, so I feel that I know what I am talking about...
When we arived, there wasn't a soul in the resturant. We assumed this after about 5-7 minutes waiting in an empty dining room. I started to get nervous and started yelling "Hello" a few times, no one came out. Paranoia took over and I assumed everyone had been murdered...then pops out a little chica on her cell phone, which she never got off of, and grabbed three menus and sat us down without out a single word. As she walked away I said " glad you weren't murdered" my friends laughed, she didn't even hear. We wanted another 10 minutes for a drink order to be taken. Canned drinks...Really? So as our waitress, who could not understand english, seriously we had to point to what we wanted, took our order we began to wonder if the resturant was a front for something else. We finally got our meals and I must say that even though the order was wrong it was very good.I had no complaints with the food.
The decor was aweful and dirty with old chairs and cheap wabbly tables. This is something they could easily improve.
The waitstaff as a mentioned earlier was a nightmare. Never even took our plates, just handed us the check. No hablo ingles, I guess. About 3 minutes before we were to leave a group of people came in and sat themselves and a few went to the back, must have been the friends. No cook/chef ever came out.
As we left, since I am a sarcastic bitch, I said to the have been the best waitress I have ever had and I hope they fire you tomorrow." the was no point in saying it since she didn't speak english and was on the cellphone still as we left. Haven't been back since...which is a shame for them, cause I like to spend money to go out to eat.
Bottom line: Good food,service bad enough to make you want to walk out or kill puppies. Ha!

Anonymous said...

This place is too slow. You better eat before ordering at this place

Martin and Lisa said...

Vizz, and others having a poor experience,

Being in business for only a year or so, it seems that they've come a long way. My personal experience was very different than yours.

I've been to Puerto Rico, actually eloped to Vieques, a small island to the East of Pr, and find that this restaurant tries to hold the flare of many of the places we ate while there.

I specifically sought this place out because it our anniversary, and with the Green Plantain closed, I needed some Puerto Rican food to help with our celebration of 5 years. I found that it was on Linden, and basically a hole in the wall from all descriptions, but still opted to go because that's where some of the best food can be found.

People complaining about wait staff, cooks and family members not speaking English? WTF? They're Puerto Rican. They speak and understand it very well, albeit with thick accents, but who cares?!? They hear you, they understand you perfectly. Talking on cell phones while seating you, yeah, I'd say that's uncalled for. Nonetheless, have some respect. You speak as though you're better than someone else, regardless of the ethnicity card you're pulling, yet you act in a very stereotypical American manner towards people that are not your version of American, or like you. Having done some travelling, I can tell you very matter-of-factly that everyone else around the world would consider you a rube, rude, disrespectful, and VERY AMERICAN, and that you're speaking with a split tongue.

My wife and I had high expectations of the food, not the service or the decor. When we were seated, the entire family came out to meet us. Mom, Dad and the son. My wife being pregnant, they asked how she was doing, was she having a difficult pregnancy, etc. Very friendly, very family-like. And then we opened the menu. While reading it, we were told that their special for the day was exactly what you said they didn't have... Fricase de Pollo (Their Friday dinner special), and it was GREAT! We also ordered Mofongo de Yuca a (Mashed Cassava w Garlic), Carne Frita (Fried Pork Chunks), Arroz con Glandules (Rice w Pigeon Peas), Arroz Blanco con Habichuelas (White Rice w Beans), and for desert... which I thought would tasted absolutely horrible (because I HATE flan), was Flan de Queso ( Cheese Flan). This Flan was GREAT. It's actually made with, if I remember right, cream cheese and topped with a guava jelly or jam. Also, the
Guineos en Escabeche is an acquired taste. Best eaten warm, and I would mash the banana a bit, and make sure that you get a good mix of the seasoning at the bottom of the bowl to get the best flavor and experience of the dish, but it's great. It's a plantain (green banana) salad with olive oil, and a host of savory seasonings. Again, acquired taste because the bananas are boiled, not fried, and have a different taste and texture.

Not having tried this place until after it was open for a year, I do believe that they may not have come out of the gate the way many people would have expected or desired. But they've stood the test for a year, they do make very authentic PR food, Pastelles included, as well as Alcapurrias.

Though not a food critic, I have literally circled the globe in my life, whereby eating a cornucopia of culinary delights from many of these places, as well as abominations. Antojitos is not an abomination. It is Dayton's hole-in-the-wall Puerto Rican kitchen.

Between Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Sicily, Ireland, Kenya, Chile, Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Rico and too many other places in between, I can tell you with great certainty that if you want to feel like your Puerto Rican family is making you dinner, and you don't mind a very casual experience with dad grabbing the maracas and singing by the end of your meal, then you NEED to eat here. We'll be there this Saturday when they have a special buffet, and where they're expected to have a full house (bring your own wine, as they don't have a license yet).

Jillymo said...

I guess I'll have to settle this dispute for myself. Lunch seems like the better time to go. Anxious to try the monfongo (sp?). I'll get back with you :)

Anonymous said...

My wife and I tried this place and had a very good meal. The service was fine. Not great, not bad. The food was awesome. I am glad I did not follow the reviewers advice. In fact, I am rather surprised at how close minded the reviewer is. I have always said if the first time I try a place is bad, maybe it is new or an off night and give it a second try later on. But then, I do try to be an open minded person...

Mike said...

I didn't see anything "close-minded" about the review.
If a waitress can't be bothered to take your order or get off her phone, they need to find another line of work.
Why would someone assume something was available that is NOT on a menu? Or that a typo existed on a price?

There seem to be a lot of people on here claiming ethnicity issues. I don't get that either. It's a busines thing, not an ethnic thing. If you want to be successful, you'd better get to know how your customers expect to be served. I would not expect to move to Puerto Rico and open up a restauarnt and operate it like I was still here. That would be stupid.

I am heading there for lunch today. Like the reviewer, they get one chance to make a first impression. I'll report back.


Mike said...

Reporting back.... I wrote most of this the day we had lunch (May 29), but am just now getting to post it.

Lunch was pretty good.
No waitress, so I can't comment on that. An older gentleman took our order. He spoke little, if any, English. This made ordering kinda difficult. One of our party wanted the Mofongo. She said it, pointed to it on the menu, and still it was unclear to him. She jokingly said after that exchange that the special would be fine too. When the food came out, she got the same special that the other 3 of us had decided to try. I've eaten in some odd places around the world... Turkey, Spain, England, Germany. Can't say I've ever had as much trouble ordering food due to a language barrier.

So, we all had the special, which was a fried pork chop with rice and beans. It was pretty good, although overcooked and pretty small. The meat portion was less than 1/2" thick and about the diameter of a soda can. I didn't taste anything too special in the way of spices or flavors... mostly just a light coat of bread crumbs. The rice and beans were great, as others have mentioned. Plain rice, but the addition of the beans made it a very tasty side dish for the pork chop. And it was plenty of rice that I didn't leave hungry.

He also brought a plate of fried plantains, jellied I think he said. They were pretty good. Not really my thing, but we all tried it and didn't dislike it. Reminded me vaguely of fried apples, due to a slight cinnamon flavor. They were mentioned when we were ordering, but I was surprised when they showed up because I was shaking my head no as he tried to describe them to us. I looked at all of our bills when they came, and I did not see any extra charge on our bill for it. Not really sure what to make of that.

After we had had our food for a while, a younger guy came by to check on us. I believe he was the lunch waiter, but we had arrived before he started. He was friendly and cleared our table as we finished, brought our checks, and made our change. I wish he had been there when we ordered as he spoke English well. The bill was reasonable, $8.02 with water.

As for the typo on the menu, still there. $12 for empanadillas on the appetizer list. I did not ask to verify that they were $2, just noting what I saw. They also still serve canned sodas for $1.50, no glass of ice. And a glass of water, with ice, is $1.25. Not bottled water mind you, just a glass of ice water. I've no way of knowing if it was filtered or tap water.

We also had the pleasure of day care ambiance. 2 young kids, maybe 8 or 9, and an infant were watching SpongeBob on the big screen and/or walking about the restaurant unsupervised. Not too distracting or annoying, just odd.

Overall, can't say I was impressed. I don't do "fine dining" so I'm not comparing it to that. But for example, Elsa's Mexican restaurant just down the street is plenty "dive" and yet they have great food and staff and very reasonable prices.

I might give it another try when they do their buffet, if I can figure out when. I'd still like to try some of the more unique dishes, but without a translator, it's too much effort.

Anonymous said...

This place is as authentic as it gets and the food/price is great. The author doesn't know what in the world he's talking about. I'm heading back to the place for the second time.
Mike D

Vizz said...

Mike (not Mike D, who cannot get his pronouns correct) - thanks a ton for the honest review. I honestly cannot believe my review of this place is in the top five of my page views and comments left. But, obviously a lot can be said of an owner or manager talking his or her friends into coming on here to dispute a couple of honest reviews and insist the place is "authentic" and the food is great. Again, I never made mention of the food because it was TOO HARD TO GET &%@#ing service, so we left.

Laura said...

Vizz, I can tell you how I came to your blog post - I searched for the restaurant and your review came up on the first page of Google results.

I can also tell you why I'm taking the time to comment - your review was downright nasty.

A coworker and I had a business meeting in south Beavercreek last week, and I told her I'd treat her to lunch when we were done. She suggested Antojitos Criollos, because she had been there before and enjoyed it. I had never been.

When we arrived, the owner (a man probably in his 30s) came out to greet us. He described the specials, but both my friend and I had some trouble understanding the entire description due to his accented English. (I'm a Spanish-speaker, but the owner didn't know that.) The menu was a little convoluted - my friend explained how the entrees worked. I ordered the mofongo with chicken and a water to drink.

The restaurant was empty when we arrived, though another group of 3 people arrived within a minute and several other small groups of paying customers arrived within 15 minutes. It was surprising to me how many customers arrived in such a short period of time.

The food arrived quickly enough, though I didn't time it. I would estimate it took about 15 minutes. It was hot and delicious. My friend had said she didn't want the empanadas that came with her meal, but he misunderstood and brought them out anyway. She gave them to me and they were tasty and hot.

The owner waited on us the entire time and was very friendly. He even sat down nearby and chatted with us for a few minutes. I was surprised by the portions - they were smaller than I expected considering the price - but I didn't consider it a bad deal because of the quality of the food and the fact that it was made from scratch.

We were not charged for the glasses of water, as another commenter reported.

I'm not going to dispute the validity of your review or your opinion, but I think you should allow that the restaurant may have improved in the last year.

Anonymous said...

The main point is--everyone may have different experiences eating in the same location (be it good or not so good) but ultimately it is the restaurant's responsibility to make sure the service, food, and decor are consistent. If one person leaves this restaurant feeling the way the original blogger felt then the restaurant has failed to a certain degree. At the end of the day, people should give second chances based on a general feeling of the possibility of a wrong being righted--in this case, the experience was irreparably poor and so I dont fault the blogger but the ownership...

Anonymous said...

The US Navy sent me to live in Puerto Rico over 40 years ago (1968-1970). I was stationed at the west end of the island at Ramey AFB. Outside the base in both directions there were at least two different mom-and-pop restaurants. My shipmates & I ate at all of them and were very happy with the food. Plenty of arroz con habichuela, arroz con pollo, mofongo in varying tastes, flan, tres leches, all that. I fell in love with the food & have spent the last 40 years trying to find all the ingredients (and recipes) to recreate that flavor from memory.

We won't get into the music.

One thing I distinctly remember was every Wednesday the civilian cafeteria next to the PX would have arroz con habichuela, pastelillos/empanadillos, salads &c. The bean & rice dish was rich with vegetables: peppers, tomato, onion. Big chunks of veggies sauteed or stewed with sausage or fatback. And the salads had different kinds of lettuce. None of that "iceberg lettuce only" crap. And there was plenty of Corona beer to go around, with or without lime. Which reminds me . . .

So 40 years later, my wife & youngest son & I return to Puerto Rico. We stayed in San Juan, zona turistica, and ate at a half-dozen places in Old San Juan & nearer to our digs. It was like aliens had come from another planet & taken all the veggies. Hardly a green pepper or tomato to be seen in anything. And every damn salad was iceberg lettuce & hot house tomato slices. And no Corona. Only Heineken. What the hell? And although the food further inland (we went to visit friends at the Arecibo Radiotelescope) was a bit closer to my memories, it was still missing that touch of vegetables.

Only place in San Juan was any different was La Dorada (1105 Avenida Magdalena), which my eldest & I had found a year before on another trip. Good food. Reasonable salad. And a huge flan on a tray in the corner just begging me to have desert. Which I did. Both times.

At which point we decided tonight to hit Antojitos Criollos. Walked in. Sit wherever. Cool. We sit. The waitress was a little too easily distracted. The food arrived in pretty good order. But dammit, where the hell were the veggies. We ordered mofongo. Quería comer mofongo rellenos de cerdo. Nope. A scoop of fried plantains, pork on the side. My wife & son got mofongo with chicken & sauce. On the side. World I lived in 40 years back, the meat was buried in the plantains, all greasy & good, with veggies too. The chicken & sauce this time had the vestiges of some pepper maybe or tomato but that was it. And when it came time for desert . . . no flan.

I guess the world has shifted to a new polarity over the past 40 years. Where did all those vegetables go? The peppers & tomatoes & onion & chunks of chorizo I used to get in the arroz con habichuelas of my long lost youth? Now everthing seems drawn from a bag or a can.

My own cooking is better. And if I can ever figure out how to make flan that doesn't make a good tire patch, well . . .

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