Restaurant review: Local Cantina

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
From the November 8, 2012 edition

Ostensibly addressing a dearth of Mexican restaurants in Grandview is the just-opened Local Cantina. Owned by George Tanchevski — a driving force behind Aladdin’s, Graffiti Burger and Giorgio — Local Cantina isn’t all that Mexican, nor is it trying to be. No, Cantina is a modern, cute and kitschy, Skee Ball-equipped, food-serving lounge surrounded by touristy Mexican tchotchkes and other roadside attractions like hubcaps and license plates. Oh yeah, and bushy spray-painted mustaches — this place’s calling card — which make their way onto pumpkins, Spanish-language periodicals (i.e. the restrooms’ “wallpaper”) and the burlap sacks decorating Cantina’s tables.

Jokiness abounds, starting at the front door (glass camouflaged by actual-sized wooden door “posters”) and Cantina’s storefront window, where “Bad Service” is advertized. Unfortunately, that last one invites snarky comments when an understaffed crew loses track of your table, forgets your order and delivers chilly food — which happened on consecutive visits.

Luckily, Cantina is relatively cheap and offers unlimited free chips plus kicky roasted salsa you retrieve yourself from the inspired station of an old-fashioned washing machine. Drink-wise, there are 16 beer taps and OK cocktails like above-average, Mason-jarred margaritas (the Mustache Ride, $7, and Sombrero, $5) and a spicy Bloody Maria ($7).

Cantina’s smallish menu includes dips like a worthy guacamole ($4) and a fiery Diablo salsa ($2); underperforming $3 tacos (my favorite — and the only one I got served warm — was salty, spicy and greasy chorizo with scrambled egg); plus a smattering of Tex-Mex staples.

From that latter category, the cheese-sauced and fresh jalapeno-ringed Brisket Nachos ($9) were decent-enough. These zesty BBQ sauce-drizzled chips might’ve made my recommended list had their good-tasting star been more beef than fat.

The Cantina Burrito ($7) presented similar obstacles. Its perfectly fine (if lukewarm) carnitas, beans and pico were underserved by an overwhelming wrapper-to-filling ratio.

As for the Chicken Fajitas ($9), their simple ingredients — onions, bell pepper strips and breast meat — never coalesced. Possibly sauce or more seasoning would’ve helped.

As is, R&B-soundtracked Cantina’s a lively place to hang out, drink and have a snack. Given more attention to its food service, it might be just as fun to seriously eat there.