Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Habañero Latin American Fare at the Levee

Habañero Latin American Fare at the Levee
One Levee Way
Newport, KY

Habañero’s, a Clifton mainstay for nearly ten years, opened a second location a few months ago at Newport on the Levee and I finally got around to visiting recently. Located on the Riverwalk Level in the former Moe’s Southwestern Grill space, Habañero’s picks up where Moe’s left off, serving gigantic burritos and savory Latin American fare at prices that won’t break the bank.

Customers queue up just inside the doors to scan through the chalkboard menu then place orders with one of the sandwich makers behind the counter. Selections are prepared while you watch. I knew from past experience that the burritos are substantial, and as I was only feeling peckish I opted for a kid’s mini veggie burrito, which came with a side of chips & salsa and a small drink.

The word “veggie” in this case refers to the burrito being vegetarian - since there were no vegetables inside, only beans and cheese - but it was quite tasty and filling. You can choose between black beans or pinto. The thick, buttery chips are house-made and hold up well without breaking when dipped into the delicious smoky tomato-chipotle salsa, of which there wasn’t enough, but that might have been due to the fact that I got a child’s portion instead of an adult’s. The little condiment cup of salsa that came with my meal only held about two ounces, so I was out of salsa long before I was out of chips. It’s easily rectifiable though – just ask for a refill.

Habañero’s caters well to the vegetarian with lots of choice all across the menu. There are mixed veggie chimichangas, veggie quesadillas, create-your-own burritos and tacos, and three signature vegetarian dishes, which can be made as burritos or open face. The Chuba Cabre is probably the most interesting of the three, consisting of cinnamon-roasted squash, pinto beans, rice and apple-green chile salsa, but it doesn’t provide a variety of textures for your tongue. I have yet to try the other two dedicated veggie signatures but that’s what revisits are for. For the record however, the Tofu Tango consists of roasted eggplant, tofu, pinto beans, rice and fire-roasted corn salsa, while the Venus de Veggie is chock full of mixed grilled veggies, black beans, fresh green pepper, rice and corn salsa.

The restaurant has a limited but good selection of draught microbrews and imported bottled beer, but sadly doesn’t carry my local favorite, Christian Moerlein. Happy hour runs daily from 4-7 p.m. I know the Clifton location also serves up pitchers of sangria, margaritas, mojitos, and glasses of wine, but I forgot to note if it was the same at the Newport location, and calls to the restaurant went unanswered.

The only thing I didn’t care for about Habañero’s is that the food comes in plastic baskets instead of on plates. I know that’s a pretty minor issue, and I realize that it’s probably a cost saving measure to help keep prices low, but it’s a bit of a turn-off - especially when the burritos are so large that they overhang the basket and spill onto the table.

Habañero Latin American Fare at the Levee on Urbanspoon


Heather said...

I'm not much of a fan of Habanero - I'd rather go to Chipotle. But - I'm very glad to find your site. My best friend is a vegetarian!



liberal foodie said...

I haven't gotten over their food yet. It's good but still hasn't won me over. I am not quite sure why. I've gone back multiple times but unfortunately at friends' requests. I really want to love it, I just haven't found a reason to.

matt said...

i just found your blog and am happy to see another cincy area veggie's perspective on our local restaurants.

i also do not eat seafood, and i'm happy to read your reviews of restaurants i haven't yet tried.

but i have to disagree on habanero. i live 2 blocks away from the clifton habenero location and i used to frequent it often.

i only frequented it because of the great chips, the draft beer selection and because it offers the only other veggie friendly non indian, thai, mediterranean restaurant on the strip.

my main beef, ha, with the place is that the black beans aren't seasoned whatsoever. a straight up veggie black bean burrito from habenero lacks flavor. i am a staunch fan of local restaurants, but i will go to chipotle 100 times before i go to habenero. i should stop complaining and simply make the request of the place, but its sad that they haven't figured this out already.

or have they seasoned the beans since i was there years ago? please?

anyway, thanks and keep up the good work.


Veggie Option said...

Hi Matt, and thanks for reading the blog! I'm always pleased to hear from other vegetarians.

I agree with you that Habanero's beans aren't the most flavorful in the world and there are other options around town that do burritos better. Perhaps they will take our comments to heart and do something about it. :)

Max said...

Hi Matt-- Thanks for your comments. I just came across your post, and we did in fact change our black bean recipe to add more flavor. When I opened, I had a lot of people say they wanted "plain" beans that didn't have a lot of spice, esp. for kids, but I agree that they lacked flavor. I now season both before and after cooking, so I hope you'll come in and give them another try...

Max Monks