Cleveland’s Avo Modern Mexican delivers on delicious promise seared into its name | Restaurant review – The Morning Journal

Few two-word combinations pique my interest — and put my taste buds on alert — quite like “modern Mexican.”
With apologies to the myriad traditional Mexican restaurants out there filling plates with perfectly delicious and filling fare, they simply are not as culinarily interesting as when Latin American food is given a contemporary treatment.
Thus, when looking for a newer Cleveland restaurant to try, I quickly landed on Avo Modern Mexican. Opened less than a year ago in the Ohio City space formerly home to Bakersfield Tacos, Tequila and Whiskey, it is owned by Gabe Zeller and Julie Mesenburg, whose portfolio also includes Char Whiskey Bar + Grille in Rocky River.
A recent Friday-night visit proved to be a wonderful dining experience, but it got off to a glitchy start.
My friend Erin — who arrives before me whenever we meet up — met me a few blocks from the West 25th Street eatery with news that she was told there would be about a 30-minute wait. Instead of crowding with others waiting inside Avo, we decided to hustle through the rain to a wine bar for a drink. Almost as soon as we sat down and ordered — it couldn’t have been much more than five minutes — she got a text from Avo saying our seats were ready.
With our drinks being made, we sent back a message giving up our Avo seats. When we returned, we had to start the process over again, and this time the wait actually was about 30 minutes.
That said, from the point when a couple of seats at one end of the U-shaped bar opened up, the experience was terrific. I loved the decor — one of those perfect mixes of classy and casual, with one wall boasting an enlarged section of its menu listing Avo’s craft cocktails — and the upbeat, knowledgeable and friendly bartender who took care of us was a joy.
Wait, one more nitpick: As many restaurants are doing, Avo wants you to scan a QR code to pull the menu up on your phone. I don’t love that in general because it can be a pain to jump back and forth between web pages representing different menu sections. It was worse at Avo, though, as I could barely get a cell signal and their WiFi was having issues. Soon, however, I had a paper menu in hand and was full go.
It felt appropriate to start with margaritas ($9, including choice of house-made syrups and salt or sugar rims). While Erin — a big fan of Char who didn’t know the restaurants are related — got something more standard, I told our server I was interested in a spicy version, if they had one. I was told they did and only later surmisedit must have been made with habanero syrup and the citrus jalapeno salt. Regardless, it was flavor-packed and spicy, but not something I couldn’t handle.
Avo has some very appealing appetizers, including Fundido ($9), Ceviche ($13) and BBQ Carnitas Nachos ($15), but their house-recipe guacamole choices — listed under “Avocado” in the menu and served with lime salted corn chips — were too intriguing to pass up. In the future, I’d love to try to the Shrimp $10, with its corn and peppers, or the Goat Cheese ($9), with pepita and candied bacon, but we easily agreed on the Honey ($8).
With ingredients including candied pecans and, yes, warm honey, this was like no guac I’ve ever had. And while I can see it being too sweet for some purists — it borders on being a dessert — it was spectacular. I delighted in every bit of the avocado-meets-a-beehive goodness I could get on a chip.
I had a bite of Erin’s savory entree, the Carne Y Papas ($25) and enjoyed Avo’s version of a meat-and-potatoes dinner, but it wasn’t all that interesting. In the future I’d order the Crispy Carnitas ($18), consisting largely of potatoes and fried sweet plantains topped with grilled pork, one of their three Burrito variations — Colorado, Verde and Fajita, each $17 — or even the vegetarian-friendly Sweet Potato Bowl ($15), to which various proteins can be added for an extra cost.
On this night, though, I was quite thrilled with my very spicy Diablo Shrimp ($25), with grilled jumbo shrimp, chorizo and green onion in a cream sauce sitting atop crisp corn cakes. (With apologies to whoever is responsible for the “local portobello” that also typically is in the mix, I requested that be held. Sorry, fungus fans.) The shrimp were big and juicy, just as you’d hope, and all the flavors and textures of the dish worked wonderfully together.
I wanted to try one more thing from Avo, one of those craft cocktails from the wall: the Tequila Old Fashioned ($13). I worked at it as Erin and I finished catching up, and like everything else I tasted that night, it was every bit as glorious as its complex description suggested it would be.
Avo: modern, Mexican and marvelous.
Reviews typically are based on one anonymous visit to a restaurant.
2058 W. 25th St.
Location: The south side of West 25th Street between Lorain and Chatham avenues.
Cuisine: Modern Mexican
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Liquor and wine: Full bar.
Vegetarian: Decent amount of options.
Prices: Appetizers in the $8 to $15 range; sandwiches $13 to $15; entrees $15 to 25.
Value: Good.
Ratings (of five):
Food: 4.5.
Atmosphere: 4.
Service: 4.