Friday, August 21, 2009

El Rinconcito - Latin Cuisine

You know you're in an authentic, ethnic restaurant when communication problems border on the uncomfortable. But all can be rectified with a pleasant attitude and, of course, stellar food. Coincidentally, that's just what's being served at El Rinconcito. Spanish for "the corner", El Rinconcito (whose sign says Latin Cuisine in very big letters for those without google translation services on their phone). Although not quite on the corner, this cute little hole-in-the-wall is inconspicuously tucked into a small strip of restaurants flanked by a horde of fast-food chains where JTB meets US 1.

el rinconcito

While their menu contains items from the general Latin American region, their specialty is Colombian cuisine. Colombian food takes its influence from European, African, and indigenous cuisines. What you get in turn is a blending of the regional chillies and spices with the stodginess of the grain and bean based cuisine of Africa and Europe's heavy use of meat. Latin American staples, like cassava (yuca), plantains, beans, rice, and corn, are featured quite prominently.

el rinconcito fajitas

Now, I'm going to betray all illusions of good taste and say that Don Pablo's had some of the best fajitas in Jacksonville. Yes, it was a big, evil chain so we're all supposed to hate them but the fajitas, on their good days, were super tasty and reasonably priced. Now that we've discovered El Rinconcito, we can all finally stop mourning the loss of Don Pablo's. These fajitas are way better. And so is the service. Properly seasoned and not overly oily, I challenge you to buy me a better fajita platter.

el rinconcito platter

I actually didn't order the fajitas but I did steal plenty of bites. My meal was the unimaginatively named Colombian Platter. But as plain as the name may be, the food itself was quite marvelous. The closest analogue would be a proper English Breakfast. Beans, rice, sausage, fried plantain, beef, a fried egg, arepa (a bread made from sweet corn), and pig skin. While it doesn't look nor sound like much, there was plenty of flavor and it sure hit the spot.

If none of this sounds appealing then please don't write the place off. The menu is not only large but varied enough to create some tough decisions for even the most picky of eaters.

el rinconcito coffee

The staff aren't as fluent in English as you or I but it's still far better than my Spanish. They also happen to be incredibly and genuinely nice. This seems to be a common theme among small, regional or ethnic focused restaurants. Rather than being happy to take your money, they seem more enthusiastic about sharing their food and culture. And a warm smile can be one of the best ingredients in a good meal out.

El Rinconcito
7159 Philips Hwy
Jacksonville, FL 32217
(904) 446-9866

The Latin Cuisine (El Rinconcito) on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Israel said...

My wife is Colombian and this is now her favorite place to eat. Very authentic but watch out for the pricey Sangrias!