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Adopting Aztecas

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 5, 2009


I have taken on a new mission. Each year I will adopt a restaurant. Other people might adopt a child, an animal from a shelter (been there, done that), or support a village somewhere. Adopting usually involves a background check. That might not be a good idea… “So sir, about your eating habits.”

My project for this year is:

Aztecas Mexican Restaurant and Bar

5225 North High Street
614 431 1200
Open Monday to Sunday
Happy Hour: Monday to Friday 3 PM to 6 PM

Aztecas bar

The adoption is not altruistic. My motives are absolutely self-serving. I can walk to Aztecas, that’s good for my health. The Margaritas are top notch with middle shelf ingredients. The food is well above average, it tastes a bit fresher than the norm for the Mexican genre. I have eaten several excellent entrees including carnitas, rellenos, and the chimichangas. A baseline for a Mexican restaurant is a bowl of chips and salsa, Aztecas delivers in this category. The chips are crisp, crunchy, and neverending. The standard salsa is fresh. If you ask your server, they may drop off some other hot salsas the cooks are testing out. Aztecas has a lot of potential so I would like to see them stay in business long enough to realize that potential.


The primary reason for my choice is my desire to grow restaurants in Clintonville. Baja Clintonville (South) is now anchored by Sage American Bistro. However NOBville (North of Beechwold) has not taken off. The area has Villa Nova and the most excellent Pig Iron, but more is needed to make the area a mealtime mecca. The first missing link in the restaurant renaissance will be a vibrant and successful Aztecas. That is my goal.


This is how I will make it happen. I have committed to eating here twice a month (I have three trips in for January so far). I have asked all of my friends and neighbors to give the place a shot. No one has been disappointed to date.

Aztecas 2

The location itself is not ideal, but back in the day it was a hoppin hangout, when it was the original Franco’s Pizza. The space was successful until the early 90’s. Then it was a wonderful Middle Eastern Restaurant that lasted 6 months, followed by a dismal Mexican eatery that strung along for a year. Aztecas is about 6 months into their run and I want them to make it in a tough economy. If you need more incentive, there are coupons floating around Columbus in all of the usual modes of delivery.

If you can’t adopt Aztecas, then pick another new restaurant for your own and run with it.

Much like a Seinfeld episode, Aztecas did not make it. The quality declined over the course of 2009 and it closed in August. It is now a place called Porter’s Pub. I hope this establishment has better success and sustainability.

15 Responses to “Adopting Aztecas”

  1. Jane said

    Jim! I will eat there with you on one of your twice-monthly ventures! Let me know when you’re up for some company, especially since you say they have good margaritas!! Woo hoo!!!

  2. miriam said

    Funny, I had you pegged as a Baja local.

    So delighted to hear that this place is a gem! I thought it’d be doomed like the predecessors, but maybe there’s hope.

    If the Gourmand says it’s awesome, I’m on-board, too.

  3. Amber said

    My husband and I LOVE Aztecas. Good food, great service, fun decor . . . what’s not to love?

  4. Rosie said

    I must have hit them on an off day then…I had a very bad dining experience with them about two months after they opened and I would be very reluctant to go back. The food was cold, the rice was dry, the beans tasted like they came out of a can…

    If you wanna meet for dinner one day let me know – I’ll give it another go. But then you have to come with me to Cuco’s on Henderson…they rock and roll!

  5. My wife and I love Aztecas too. The staff is always friendly. I’ve been bold and even tried their tilapia (fillet, not the whole fish) and it was pretty darn good. This is one of our favorite restaurants- we now drive down from Worthington estates to eat here. They are also in the entertainment book- and you can get 25% off coupons from the entertainment online website as well.


  6. I’m with Jane– let us know when you go! I’ve been craving some better-than-your-average Mexican.

  7. Congrats on the Columbus Alive article Jim. Thanks too for pointing out Aztecas. I crave good Mexican food every day of my life. Let’s meet up there soon.

  8. Tom Weber said

    Your a Columbus Alive Star … will you sign some at B-up?

    Never been to this place – we’ll have to check it out.

  9. Amanda said

    Oh my gosh, this is SO close to my house! I will definitely heed your advice and check it out soon!! 🙂 yay for learning about a new Mexican place AND with good margaritas!! 🙂

  10. Nick said

    We live so close, and yet we haven’t been here yet. We’ll make a point to visit soon!

  11. Derek said

    A few friends of mine and I went to eat at this place last night, following your recommendation. I have to admit that it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

    The chips are fresh and great, but the standard salsa is far too tame. Our server did proactively provide us with some hotter salsa, but the hot stuff tasted way too smokey, and all of the heat was flavorless and hit you in the throat after you swallowed. The quesofundido (queso and chorizo) was fantastic, but the rest of the meal was uninspired. The margaritas tasted watery, the beans tasted canned, and the meat was underprepared (not underdone, mind you– just a little tasteless). Maybe it was an “off” day for them (though I’m inclined to believe that restaurants should never have “off” days), and we got some nice coupons from one of the servers, so we’ll probably give this place one more chance sometime in the future; unless they really shine next time, though, I’ll take Vaqueros over Aztecas for my Mexican craving any day.

    CMHG Comment: Sadly, my last two trips have been the same – inconsistent. My hope is that more business will drive consistency. I have noticed that there have been a staff changes and my last meal hot dogs were substituted for ham…it was good – but I need to know about a switch like this beforehand. The frozen margaritas are still good but the on the rocks have dropped down a notch – while still good. I am still going to ride things out and hope for the best.

    Thanks for giving them a shot Derek!

  12. JM said

    My boyfriend and I were going to try Aztecas tonight, but with the blizzard outside I think it’s Villa Nova leftovers for us 🙂 I’m new to your blog, love it – it’s going on my Google reader right now.

  13. Tim said

    Finally made it to Azteca’s for lunch. The chips were excellent. The salsa was OK: I prefer mine chunky and a bit hotter, but the entree and dessert was great. Since it was lunch, I had iced tea instead of a magarita and the tea was very good. I will have to go back for dinner sometime. The server was very friendly and attentive. We were the only lunch diners for the first half hour, but business did begin to pick up as we left.

  14. Bear said

    I am just about ready to kill for some good Mexican. Your generous donation of a few taco-truck tacos to the cause the other day just whetted my appetite…. So I’m with Jane and the Librarian — count me in for a trip.

  15. We’re back from Aztecas, the second time in the last two weeks. It seems as if they are getting desperate- handing out a pink punch card where you get your 11th punch free, offering us drink specials halfway during our meal, checking on us every 3 minutes, etc. I also agree about the “on the rocks” margaritas- mine was certainly more watered down than what I had before. Also interesting- last night, one of the waiters was preparing fresh guacamole at the table for each patron. For a Saturday night, although the weather wasn’t great, business was pretty light.

    My Chile Verde pork was tender and tasty. We’ll probably try Aztecas a few more times, but they need to stop trying so hard!


    CMHG Comment: I was there Friday – good turn out for customers but a similar experience. I think the lunch team is doing a better job than the night team – a good margarita mixed some free communal appetizers might get a good happy crowd built up.

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