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If you listened last week, you know how little I think of the downtown dining scene. Actually there's little to think of since there's so little of it to think about. Pity the poor office workers in our city center, since their lunchtime choices seem permanently mired in either funky and cool sandwich shops, like the Enigma or Iowa Café, or struggling ethnic eateries like the none-too-comely Komol Kitchen which routinely tests my resolve to overlook the cultural cleanliness standards of many Asian restaurants. So between dives and cold-cuts, it's hardly worth leaving your desk most days if you're stranded in the culinary wasteland between Sahara and Fremont Streets. About the only thing you can say about any commercial establishment in this part of town is that the rent's pretty cheap—which is about the only reason anyone with any sense would open a full-service restaurant anywhere near here.

All of which underscores why I'm checking the sanity of Enrique Tinoco these days. I mean this guy's a real cook in a real kitchen of a real restaurant. He had to have gotten a killer deal on the place since it's located on the backside of a muffler shop or something and is practically invisible. Correct that, IT IS invisible from the street. Drive down East Charleston, turn into the Lucky Shopping Center and drive around awhile and you will find it—but not without some difficulty. Once inside though, you can forget the search and concentrate on perfectly cooked escolar, salmon and dungeness crab cakes which could only be made by a guy who's crazy like a fox—at least when he's at the stoves. And get this, all this upscale quality comes at a price point of $7 to $10 for lunch and $10 to $20 for dinner. That's insanely low. Hey, maybe all that money Enrique's saving on rent is paying off for his customers. A nutty thought it's true but I'm telling you, this guy Tinoco is loco. You better find him quick before the franchised Grease Gestapo shuts him down and makes us eat Taco Bell for the rest of our downtown lives.

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Tinoco's Bistro is located at 1756 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 678-6811.

This is John Curtas

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