Chino Latino

Twin Cities, Minnesota


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rating star

I'd somehow never been to Chino Latino until now, and now that I've been, I doubt I'll be back. If you're in a skirt with high heels, and will be going to the Warehouse District after eating, Chino Latino is for you. If you're vegan, vegetarian, or more interested in the quality of your food than the quality of the decor around you, Chino Latino is eminently avoidable.

I came here with a group on a Saturday night; the place is packed, so don't expect to be seated promptly if you don't have reservations. Even the bar area had limited standing room. Everyone there is in a group of twelve (myself included), so if you go by yourself or with only just one other person, be prepared to feel awkward and unloved.

The place is loud, so conversation is not easy, and there's always so much movement and noise that it's hard to relax in Chino Latino.

There were some good points: the waitstaff is friendly, attentive and helpful. The atmosphere is upscale and modern, though it treads facile (the crazy and confusing bathroom, however, puts the place back in edgy territory).

Now the not-so-good: there's not much cultural diversity at Chino Latino and, amazingly, it seems even more homogeneous than other places in Uptown proper.

The drinks are all extremely expensive at around $10 a piece. Yes, the drinks are strong, so you get your money's worth I guess, but it is still excessive. Also, none of the drinks I tried were particularly tasty or memorable (unlike the $10 strong drinks at Red Dragon, which are delicious and have funny names). My caipirinha (Brazil's national cocktail) was totally off and not very appealing; I don't know what it was, but it wasn't a caipirinha (and I've lived in Brazil, so I know what it should taste like). My friend's margarita (~$10) was awful; five of us tried a sip and all of us recoiled in disgust. My friend actually sent the drink back and got a Budweiser instead (kudos to the waitstaff, who didn't argue or question anything, and promptly took the drink away and got him the beer).

Now onto the food. Make sure to ask lots of questions about ingredients, because even dishes that seem to be vegan/vegetarian are not, in fact, vegan or vegetarian. The stir-fried veggies ($7; side order) are cooked in oyster sauce. The vegetable potstickers ($9) have egg and oyster sauce. The spicy edamame ($9) has oyster sauce.

My vegan friend ended up with chips and guacamole ($9) which was tasty, but super-expensive (you could get superior chips and salsa/guacamole for FREE at most Mexican restaurants). I had a weedeater sushi plate ($14; modified to be vegan) that was okay, but not worth $14, and was akin to the quality of sushi you get at Whole Foods: edible, but nothing special.

In conclusion, Chino Latino is loud, expensive, homogeneous, and doesn't make good food or drinks. But the atmosphere is kind of fun (if you're in a group of twelve, which you will be) and the service is solid, which is why I give it two stars, rather than one. That said, I wouldn't come here again on my own accord.

rating star

I went here last Saturday night with a friend. The service was great - we were seated immediately and the waiter was extremely attentive. When I asked about vegan items, he listed off many dishes that either come vegan or can be easily veganized. I had a hard time deciding! My friend and I split fries with black beans, pico de gallo, salsa, and guacamole - delicious. We ordered slightly more healthy but also wonderful sides of stir fried veggies and beans. It was enough food to be full and allowed for a more reasonable tab.
A note about the service - I asked for a lemon or lime in my water: it came to me with a lemon wedge, a lime wedge, an orange slice, two slices of watermelon, and a plastic mermaid. Can't beat that!
The biggest downfall is the prices, which are higher than my student budget can usually afford.

*update* I went here again on a Friday night to celebrate graduation with some friends and once again had a terrific experience. The server sat down next to me and highlighted all the vegan choices of the night--this time I ordered the same fries, a green coconut curry with tofu, eggplant, red peppers, and jasmine rice, and "weedeater" sushi. The curry was heavenly with tofu that dissolved immediately in my mouth. The sushi was also well executed. The pineapple/mango/papaya drink served in a pineapple is expensive, but well worth the slushy goodness. Once again it was expensive, but a great ambiance for a celebration.

rating star

Chino Latino is a great place to go with a lot of different people. The servers are more than happy to discuss what is and what is not vegan or vegetarian on the menu and they always go ask the chef if they are uncertain.

I love this place because of the style of eating: lots of little dishes throughout the night. There are big meals to share as well, but I love sampling lots of different appetizers and sharing with friends and family.

The menu also changes regularly, but my experience has been that they tend to add more meat-centric dishes than new veggie or vegan items.

The crazy cocktails also make this restaurant an experience to be had. Often at $10 or more but with more than enough booze that one may be enough.

However, Chino Latino is best done when someone else is paying -- it doesn't take long to rack up a couple hundred dollars.

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