Not named after the tequila, but just as authentically Mexican. Walking in you immediately felt the cantina part of their name. The music was joyous and full of maracas and drums. A beat that kept the tempo and room light hearted. Authentic music, traditional decorations, and classic food.
The bar was hung with local jerseys and the televisions adjacent broadcasted the games of home teams. Bar set up included two slush machines for margaritas, three varieties of patron on display, four Mexican and domestic beers on tap, and five flat screens. A row of high chairs were available in front, for those wanting a better view of the games.
The open kitchen was towards the back, and out of the need, the brightest spot in the restaurant. The absence of walls allowed a clear view of the two chefs, working behind all their stainless steal equipment. With heads down, they moved feverishly hands moving. Seats were described and offered as high tops or low tables. Each a dark wood and topped with a red tea light holder. The room was accented in cast iron separators and worn brick walls. I have no better way to describe it than, very village-like. The room was fairly dark, the row of bulbs above did nothing to brighten up the space. They set the mood and hid the lack of colour on your plates. A large chandelier centred the dining area. It was constructed from a clustering of multi tipped stars, each typically seen as piñatas. They had spots cut out, allowing light to stream out. It was certainly the focal point of the room, gathering warmth from all corners.
Even the washrooms matched the decor. A whimsical and practical blend of tradition meets modern. The walls are done in the same worn brick pattern as the rest of the restaurant. The stall doors, were a wood and glass blend, resembling the entrance to a cottage. The mirror was mimicked after a window and the sink a copper basin. Despite its break in theme, I appreciated the usefulness of the automatic tap and the Dyson air blade hand dryer.
The menu started as a list of margaritas and other blended drinks, then went to lunch specials and their dinner menu. The food came fast on a pervious visit. However today, despite the lack of bodies in tables and the absence of crowds by the door, the food did take longer to come. Though the complimentary basket of chips and salsa did help bridge the gap of waiting. They were room temperature chips with a side of home made salsa. The chips were a light with a noticeable corn flavour. Tasty enough to eat as is. The salsa was fresh with its bright red colour. So flavourful that I used majority of it on my dish to rejuvenate its taste mid way through. I was most impressed over the special restaurant logo-ed wax paper the chips sat in.
“Enchiladas”, the safe bet. Three pieces of chicken tinga and verde (mild salsa) wrapped in a corn tortilla. Each topped with feta cheese and sour cream. The dish came with a side of seasoned Spanish rice and whipped beans. My guest went with chicken and verde, from a choice of beef tinga, veggie stew, pork; or red tomato and mole or sauce. This was the tastier of the two dishes ordered today. Despite its bland colours it was packed full of flavour. With the addition of rice and bean you were sure to be full. I just could do without the unavoidable mushy texture. Though with the aid of the rice, it helped to soak up the extra moisture and balance out the sogginess.
“Huaraches”. House made corn dough fried then topped with carnitas (pulled pork), beans, salsa, lettuce, feta cheese, and sour cream. My choice variations included beef tinga, chicken tinga, cochinita, chorizo, garlic mushroom, or veggie stew. With the possibility of upgrading the protein to steak or pastor for more; or adding melted cheese for extra. I regretfully passed on the later and was left looking for something extra, a taste I left was missing from my plate. Mid way through the first piece I grew tired of the monotonous taste. And resulted in borrowing sour cream and tomatillo sauce for my guest’s plate and the remainder of our unused salsa. All in order to perk up and rejuvenate what I felt was a one note taste. The dish arrived in front of me, the food sitting in a pool of liquid on my plate. Even with my first bite, things were very soggy. Extra liquid from sweat from the pulled pork or the juices found in the fresh salsa? I wished they drained it all, as I desperately needed the crisp lettuce to perk up each bite. It added a nice crisp texture that was missing. The menu mentioned the dough being deep fried, but I didn’t get that. I was unable to finish the second piece, packing it up to go, but knowing full well that I would probably not eat it after. It was already very soggy, I could only imagine how unappealing it would look with wilted greens.
During a previous visit, my same guest got the same thing, “Chicken Tinga Enchiladas”. The presentation has changed: less feta, smaller portions of the sides, and the addition of sour cream.
Today I regretted not getting the tacos like I did last time. It was both more visually appealing and more flavourful than what I had today. Three tacos for $11, you are able to choose a different flavour for each. The variety keeps things fresh. Here I had them in chicken, beef, and pork. With a bowl of guacamole and beans on the side.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommended it? – Yes.
This is my second visit and I plan on coming back in the future for more. It is not my favourite Mexican restaurant in terms of cuisine, but the restaurant is lovely with a thoroughly thought out decor. The food is authentic Mexican in a convenient to drive to and park at location. For those who appreciate the North American version of Mexican cuisine, I advise sticking to the tacos. Don’t deny your cravings.