By Coco Mault
When pondering a list of famous classic cocktails, it’s safe to say that something called Donkey Punch won’t make the list. But it’s on the menu at Chino Latino. It’s one thing to order one, and another (quite amusing) thing to hear a bartender ask a patron, “Would you like another Donkey Punch?” At any other bar this question would likely be met with a questioning look, but at Chino Latino it’s all part of the uninhibited fun. This is just the name of one cocktail on a long list of potent potions.
In addition to having wildly named drinks, this restaurant boasts of serving foods from the world’s hot zones, meaning “the tropical belt that extends from the Caribbean to the Americas to Polynesia, on to Southeast Asia, India, Africa and back again,” according to Chino Latino’s website. Though the restaurant may be more well-known for their salacious billboards, i.e. “Late night oral action, dinner till 1am.”
Located on Hennepin Avenue just steps north of Lake Street in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, the place is hard to miss. This is a prime location of course, but there is a long strip of industrial-sized glitter on the restaurant’s facade that quivers in even the faintest breezes that commands at least a glance.
Weekends are busy here; party people wearing next to nothing regularly fall out of stretch Humvees and teeter into Chino Latino’s pink, low-lit atmosphere. If that particular scene seems unappealing, head in for happy hour early in the week. The scene is considerably more mellow, which means costumers will be able to hear the bartender the first time she mentions a naughty sounding cocktail.
Chino Latino’s cheeky atmosphere is certainly fun, but after tasting the food and cocktails, it’s easy to see that they are not solely relying on the novelty to keep people coming back. The fare is actually quite tasty.
The aformentioned Donkey Punch is a passion fruit punch ($5); it’s a large drink served in a highball. There’s no fanfare with this cocktail — served on the rocks with an orange slice. But the carbonated beverage is refreshing enough. For something a bit more tropical, the Maui Wowie is a tastier option made with orange vodka, coconut rum, pineapple and orange juice. This is a large pour too, and a steal at only $6. Other options on the happy hour menu include a Mango-tini ($6) and Moscow Mule ($5). They offer classics on their happy hour menu, too. Order a bloody marys, classic mojito, or house margarita for only $5. Well drinks, tap beers, and the restaurant’s choice of red or white wine are all between $3 – $4. On Monday happy hour includes $5 shots of Jagermeister, Canton Ginger, Jameson, and Grand Marnier.
When it comes to their happy hour food options, don’t hesitate to give Senor Itchy’s Crab Balls a try. There isn’t much to lose at only $1 a piece. They are scrumptious with a delicately crisp crust and a soft, flavorful, and not-too-fishy mash of ingredients inside. The crab fritters come with a mango habenero sauce, so beware when eyeing what looks to be a sweet concoction. It is sweet only for a moment before the heat kicks in. The fried rice with guacamole ($5) is tasty and arrives in a little mound mixed with veggies on a simple plate. Same goes for the Quesadilla Abierta ($4) — it’s a smallish size, but flavorful and fresh tasting on a crisp flatbread rather than a limp flour tortilla. It’s an open-faced dish topped with chorizo, pepper jack, black beans, pico, and has a bit of a kick with jalapeno mayo.
Be sure to ask for the dessert menu, too. From there order the coconut ice cream and fried plantains. The little fruit arrives just slighty browned and crispy on the outside, adding an appetizing crunch with a bite of the ice cream. It’ll be hard to ignore the fact that it’s all plated in the shape of a funny little octopus, too. Order a cocktail from their regular drink menu to experience how Chino Latino accessorizes the glass outside of happy hour. The Cuban Bastard ($10), for instance, is made with Don Q Cristal rum, muddled fresh lime (we counted four generous slices), and cherries with a splash of tamarind. The cocktail arrived on the bar with something else, too: A tiny plastic mermaid resting her elbows over the rim of the glass. It was almost as if she were relaxing in a hot tub rather than in a cool, tropical cocktail. Sometimes it’s nice when your cocktail is also in a party mood.
Chino Latino’s happy hour is Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.
2616 Hennepin Ave S.
Hours: Mon to Thurs 4:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Fri to Sat 4:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Sun 4:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.