New Kid in Town - Don Jito

New restaurants continue to pop up in my neighborhood - and they seem to be doing it right under my nose.

In my last restaurant review I compared the attempts at good customer service at the new restaurant, Sofia's, to the terrible customer service I received at the defunct Spice Kitchen.  I was not surprised Spice Kitchen went out of business.

I didn't pay much attention to the empty space Spice Kitchen once occupied until about two weeks ago.  I noticed for the first time there was a new facade on the building.  There were no notices of a new place coming soon, so I assumed it would be a long time before there was a new restaurant in the space.

Then last week I saw people eating there.  The restaurant had opened right under my nose and I didn't even know the name of it or what kind of food it served.

I took a walk by there the next day and examined a menu posted on the door.  The restaurant was called Don Jito and the menu showed a hybrid of Spanish and Mexican food.  There were traditional Spanish tapas, a selection of specialty tacos, and a mix of entrees such as paella and churrasco.

Why didn't I see the name of the restaurant?  Well, our town zoning board forces a long and painful process for businesses to put up permanent signage.  New businesses often open before they can get signage approval.  They resort to displaying temporary banners instead.  Don Jito has a banner, but it is not anchored at the bottom so you can't see it when the wind blows because it blows upwards and over the roof of the building.

Kevin and I  decided to try it last weekend and see if it would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.  It is directly across the street from our building, so we appreciate the convenience.

When we entered we were offered a small table for two in a cramped area.  They realized they had better tables and offered us a four top closer to the windows.

The funky decor from Spice Kitchen is gone and replaced with a simple, clean scheme of dark wood.  They also have a patio in the back with outdoor seating.

They also had interesting silverware.
Our server came to our table as soon as we sat down and started asking if we wanted drinks or guacamole.  I reminded him we had no beverage list or menus, so we really needed to see our options.  He brought our menus and gave us some time to peruse.  We ordered our drinks and apps and spent a little more time figuring out what we wanted for a main course.

We ordered albondigas picante - spicy meatballs - to start.  I was craving meatballs all week and was happy to see some on the menu.  These were a bit dense.  I tend to like my meatballs softer.  I also thought they were a tad too salty.  The spice was spot on though.  It was enough to take me by surprise, but it wasn't overpowering.  The sauce was good enough to want to soak up in the provided tortillas.

I ordered chicken tacos for the next course.  Kevin ordered the paella.  Our goal was to see the range of the kitchen by ordering different types of dishes.  Don Jito offers a variety of creative tacos, but you can only order one kind at a time (a plate of three).  You can't mix them unless you order a big taco platter for the table.  I had to choose which one I wanted to try.  I decided to go with grilled chicken and black beans.  If they can do chicken well, then there is a good chance others will be good.

The pickled vegetables on the side were delicious.  The tacos were a bit disappointing . Just like with the meatballs, the concept was good, but they were somewhat flawed.  They needed a bit more salt, or something else to boost their flavor.  I squeezed all of the lime over them.  Kevin liked his paella, but it was huge.  He took home the leftovers.

Service was friendly, but spotty.  We had three different servers working our table and they didn't seem to be in communication with each other.  After we ordered our dinner, another server came to our table and greeted us and asked if we needed menus.  After we ordered our dessert, our original server saw us waiting and came to our table panicked that we hadn't received our main courses yet.  There didn't seem to be much communication happening among the waitstaff.

We had to wait a bit for dessert.  They only had three options: churros, tres leches cake, and tequila tiramisu.  The third option sounded too weird to me, so I had the cake and Kevin had the churros.  The cake had a strange bitter undertaste to it, but it didn't spoil the taste completely.  I couldn't finish it, but I liked it enough to take home the extra.  The churros were light and crispy.  They were in the running for the best part of the meal.

My experience with the place was positive overall.  I overheard the owner say he was open for only ten days.  That's not much time to work out the kinks.  I would like to come back in a month or two and see if the service improves and if the kitchen gets more on the ball with seasoning the food.  I see potential here, but it could go either way.