I've always heard people raving about Cantina, and I had been there a couple times before on what must have been off nights, so I thought I would give it another shot. I love the atmosphere of this place, the exposed brick walls and the punched tin candle holders, all very trendy and inviting. I went with two other friends at around 4:30 for a very early dinner/very late lunch. While we waited for the third friend to get there, my one friend and I ordered a couple drinks to go with our complimentary chips and salsa. The chips were deliciously fried and could handle some serious salsa dipping - always a plus. The salsa itself was fresh and flavorful, on the milder side to cater to all sorts of tastes.
My friend got a margarita that was very well made with that strong kick of tequila that warms you up with the first sip.
Nothing says warm weather like a good margarita!
Myself on the other hand...I'm sad to say I got one of the worst white sangrias I've ever had.
It was so watered down, there was literally no taste to it. Not to mention none of the fresh fruit (other than the orange slice) that I've always thought makes sangria such a special drink. Though I hated to do it, I sent back my sangria for another one. When I got my second one the waitress said that the bartender made this one without the sprite. Is there normally sprite in sangria? Regardless, even without the sprite, the sangria was still watered down and disappointing.
After getting the second drink and still not digging it, I was hoping that the appetizers we ordered would help make up for the sangria. We ordered guacamole and the cactus fries. I was particularly curious about the fries, I don't think I've ever had cactus before, have you?
The guacamole was pretty good, nothing too exciting and certainly not worth the almost ten dollars we paid for it, but dependably good guac. The fries on the other hand...those were VERY exciting! They were spicy and juicy and fried to perfection. I'm trying to think of what to compare cactus to, but it's really in a category of its own, you might just have to try it for yourself. It also came with a spicy aioli, but I was eating the fries without the sauce, they can really hold their own.
One of my friends got a cup of black bean soup and the special salad as her main meal. The black bean soup was similar to the guacamole - good but not knock your socks off great.
I did love the cream on top though, that was definitely a nice touch.
The salad was avocado, cucumber, and tomatoes in a light dressing. I thought this was a great refreshing summer salad, but maybe would have been better suited as a side dish? It was just a lot to have a whole plate of it.
I went for a salad as well and got the Taco Salad with shrimp instead of chicken which cost me an extra $2 but was worth it, I love grilled shrimp on salads. I have to say though, as much as I love the presentation of salad in a taco bowl, it's so hard to figure out how to go about eating it...
Doesn't that look pretty? This salad has avocado, corn, black beans, cheese, jalepenos and tortilla strips (and chicken or shrimp) with a rancho dressing. This is an extremely filling salad and even though I ate as much of it as I possibly could, I had plenty leftover for the next day's lunch. I liked the spicy kick of the dressing and jalepenos matched with the sweetness of the corn and mild Mexican cheese. This salad was definitely a winner.
The last dish ordered was the Roast Duck Taquitos, normally an appetizer but my friend ordered it as an entree since we had already gotten two appetizers. When they came out she was pretty disappointed that they were deep fried, the menu said the taquitos are wrapped in corn tortillas but didn't mention that they were fried. Oh well, lesson learned.
Do those edges look a little burnt to you? What I loved about this dish was the blackberry-habanero salsa, it had complex flavors of sweetness with a burning (in a good way) aftertaste to it. I don't know if Cantina uses this salsa with other dishes, but I know that I would definitely order something with blackberry-habanero goodness. The salsa was the saving grace of the taquitos though, my friend ended the meal far from satisfied.
I have to say, I was fairly disappointed with Cantina. I know a lot of people like going there for drinks, but after that sangria experience I don't think I'll be going back any time soon. I like the feel of the place and I wouldn't mind having those fries and the Taco Salad again, but it was overpriced for the overall quality of food. I wasn't impressed much by anything but the fries and salad, and a restaurant needs more than that to make a good impression.