If you have followed my columns you might have picked up on my dislike of restaurants that place a higher value on the photo-worthiness of a dish than its actual flavor. Plating has always been a key component in the world of culinary arts, but the rise of foodie bloggers has turned artful plating into monstrous though colorful concoctions that draw views online but do nothing for the palate.
When I walked into Cilantro Lime 2.0 in Glendale and noticed an entire wall papered in a collage of Instagram photos, my knee-jerk reaction was to run away in fear of experiencing a dining fiasco. Since I had brought along my sister and her two small, hungry children, I shook off my negative disposition and gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did.
What makes Cilantro Lime 2.0 unique is the fact that their menu runs the gamut of every style of Mexican food Southern Californians have come to expect, and it doesn’t just cater to the Instagram crowd. Traditional plates like enchiladas ($11.99) and chili relleno ($11.99) have a home under “mom’s favorite dishes,” all of which come with rice, beans and chips.
On the other side of the spectrum, they have the “bloggers menu,” which I acknowledge is not as over-the-top as it could be. Under that header are options like “flaming hot Cheetos quesadilla” ($8.99), which is exactly what it sounds like: cheese and hot Cheetos inside a tortilla that is cooked with a halo of crispy cheese edges. You can add a protein for an additional $2. Also cheese-heavy and on the blogger menu are the “let’s go grub” tacos ($4 each), with your choice of meat, pico de gallo and a crispy cheese shell in place of a tortilla.
Cilantro Lime 2.0 has all the Cali-Mexican classics, like asada fries ($12), with melted cheddar cheese, carne asada, pico de gallo, sour cream, their secret sauce, guacamole, cilantro, and salsa. It is a behemoth. All the people in my group just barely managed to take down the whole thing. What makes Cilantro Lime 2.0’s asada fries special is that they melt the cheddar onto the fries first, which allows the cheese to distribute evenly. But the fun-fry options do not end there. Elote lovers rejoice Cilantro Lime 2.0 is home to the esquite fries ($11.50) with the same cheese/fry base as the asada fries, then topped with elote, mayonnaise, cotija, and of course crumbles of hot Cheetos. Traditionalists need not worry; an esquites cup is available for $4.
Glendale’s Cilantro Lime 2.0 opened in April and is the second incarnation of a restaurant that has gained a cult following at its smaller location in a food court in downtown Los Angeles that opened in 2015. While the DTLA location was just a small walk-up space in a food court alongside other vendors, the Glendale location is a standalone with a full dining room — hence the “2.0” in the name. The service at this location is fantastic. The crew is helpful, courteous and they know what to suggest so you cannot go wrong.
Cilantro Lime 2.0 owner and Glendale resident Leo Matias said there are plans to bring more options to the new location over the next few months. He hopes to put more seafood dishes like ceviche on the menu and is currently working on an alcohol license, because what else would you want to pair with asada fries than a beer? In my chat with Matias, he revealed the existence of a secret Instagram menu, with items like the cheese shell burrito ($10.25); all the burrito fixings in a blanket of crispy cheese.
In my haste at the counter, I was pointing at pictures on the menu and adding them to my order when one of those choices reminded me of a cross between a sloppy Joe and a torta. It was the pambazo ($10.50), a wet sandwich typically stuffed with chorizo and potatoes, then coated in a red chili enchilada sauce. The telera bread is softer than that of the bolillo bread traditionally used on tortas, but the sandwich is just soft, not soggy. Unbeknownst to me, the Cilantro Lime 2.0 pambazo is served with soyrizo in place of chorizo and is topped with lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco and cilantro. I tricked myself into enjoying a vegetarian option. Most of the heavy lifting in that feat was done by the chili sauce and textures. Nevertheless, if I had no idea meat wasn’t included, than I would have to count that as a win for the Cilantro Lime 2.0 chefs.
We also tried the taquitos and flautas. Both were crispy and delicious with beef or chicken and drizzled with sour cream and a flavorful avocado sauce. The quesadilla was packed with meat and gooey cheese, and had those crispy edges that everyone loves but there’s never enough of. The salsas range from a mild red, medium green and “cry baby” hot. Honestly, their cry baby salsa did have me sweating and tearing up a bit.
While I was there, several take-out and pickup orders headed out the door so the word is out. Cilantro Lime 2.0 is every bit of fun and flavor that Instagram makes it seem. The dishes are carefully crafted and taste as good as they look. From the favorites to the artistic takes on the traditional, Cilantro Lime is serving it up with great customer service too.
Cilantro Lime 2.0
1247 E. Colorado St..,
934 S. Los Angeles St,
Major Cards/No Alcohol