Gutierrez deli serves big flavor for a small price

Tacos aren't just for Tuesdays at this family-run business, where a daily special includes three types of tacos and a can of soda for $6.99.

Every Taco Tuesday, I find myself wondering where the line blurs between authentic Mexican food and the Tex-Mex many of us naively believe to be “the real deal.”

However, a trip over to Gutierrez Deli in Covington opened up my gringo eyes (and taste buds) to what real Mexican food is like.

At first glance, Gutierrez Deli can be misleading. When I drove past the building on Lee Street during my daily commute, with its toy ponies outside, I thought it would be a good place to buy lunch meat and other deli necessities. 

But Gutierrez doesn’t sell cold cuts; the deli actually sells a wide variety of Hispanic groceries as well as a menu of hot, made-to-order Mexican food.

The family-run business boasts that tacos aren’t just for Tuesday anymore — and with their prices, even college grads chin-deep in student debt can dine out any day of the week. While the menu is small, it offers quick, friendly service and some great tacos. 

The daily special includes three tacos — beef or chicken, with cheese, cabbage, loads of cilantro and homemade salsa verde on the side — and a can of soda for $6.99. 

For the same price you can opt for a giant quesadilla with the same fillings and have a second meal leftover for later (my boyfriend, a voracious eater, could only finish half his quesadilla). 

As a special treat, Gutierrez also offers homemade tamales ($2) on Saturdays and Sundays. If visiting during the weekend, be sure to try one. The tamales come with chicken and masa dough wrapped in a banana leaf. The simplicity of the dish and flavor of the meat make these incredibly special.

Claudio Gutierrez and his girlfriend Courtney Case opened the business in 2012. Opening a family business had always been a dream for Gutierrez, and while he had original plans to buy an old bakery in Lexington, Ky., he decided to stay in the Cincinnati area when the building formerly known as Sue’s Deli in Covington went up for sale. Gutierrez currently lives in Mexico, but the business is still run by Case and Gutierrez’s relatives.

The food is made using recipes Gutierrez learned growing up watching his mother cook. 

His son Sergio says the only thing “Americanized” about the selection is the addition of cheese on the tacos. (Yep, in Mexico you will only find meat, onions and cilantro on your tacos). The spice level of the food is kept under control to please a variety of taste palates. 

Sergio says that while Mexicans are used to spicier food, here the salsa is served on the side so that a diverse array of customers can enjoy the food and choose their own spice levels.

Those who feel a bit overwhelmed by choices when ordering from build- your-own Mexican restaurants like Chipotle can finally relax. Gutierrez’s limited selection of fillings keeps the tacos and quesadillas simple. 

And in this case, simpler is better — with meat and salsa this good, there’s no need to pile on ingredients. 

Upon stepping into Gutierrez Deli, customers are quickly enveloped in the family-run atmosphere with bilingual banter going on behind the deli counter. Both Case and Sergio agree that working with their family means they can always depend on one another, and the business has brought the family closer.

And if you’re looking to soak up some culture before Hispanic Heritage Month ends Oct. 15 (or really any time of the year), you should definitely try some authentic Mexican from Gutierrez Deli. 

There are a few picnic tables outside the building where you can enjoy the fall weather, or make a short drive to Devou Park or Smale Riverfront Park for a picnic. (Unfortunately, the word “picnic” is the same in Spanish and English, so there’s no room for me to show off my limited Spanish vocabulary.)


GUTIERREZ DELI is located at 1131 Lee St., Covington, Ky. More info: facebook.com/gutierrezdeli.

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