Across the crowded room, grinning heads were bobbing over craft drafts as a muscular new tune from that old music warrior, Tom Petty, was blasting. Up on well-positioned flatscreens, the Cleveland Cavaliers were dismantling the Indiana Pacers. Oh yeah, there were inexpensive tacos too. Welcome to Local Cantina in Clintonville.

Across the crowded room, grinning heads were bobbing over craft drafts as a muscular new tune from that old music warrior, Tom Petty, was blasting. Up on well-positioned flatscreens, the Cleveland Cavaliers were dismantling the Indiana Pacers. Oh yeah, there were inexpensive tacos too. Welcome to Local Cantina in Clintonville.

I'm not saying Local Cantina's Americanized Mexican food is just an afterthought. Let me put it this way, though: As an affordable neighborhood sports pub, the place is a slam dunk. As a Mexican restaurant, it's like getting a blocked shot - you're glad to have it, but it's not exactly what puts fans in the seats.

Part of a three-link chain owned by George Tanchevski (the Aladdin's Eatery franchisee in Columbus), the Clintonville Local Cantina helps fill gaps in an ever trendier, but restaurant- and tavern-deprived community. It's a kitschy but spiffy hangout offering great prices, a parking lot, playful food (including good serve-yourself free chips and salsa), 20 drafts (plus tons of upscale beer in cans) and tequila cocktails. When springtime reappears, I expect its opened garage doors will be crowd magnets.

Aside from the long bar, most seating is at round tables fitted with stools. If nothing's available, write your name on the chalkboard by the door, and grab a drink.

If you enjoy your margaritas short and sweet - I prefer them taller and tarter - the potent and cheap Mustache Ride ($7) is Cantina's signature libation. Like something spicy? Try the Jalapeno Gimlet ($7, with Cazadores tequila) or the smoky and beer-splashed Bacon Bloody Mary ($7). Overall though, I'd treat the sweet cocktails here as harmless preludes to the beer list.

Obviously there's guacamole ($4). Though under-salted, it's fresh and nicely presented with cilantro, cotija cheese sprinkles and a little minced jalapeno. I'd give it a B.

I'd give the Deep Fried Avocado ($5) a C - for cheeky. Slices of firm avocado enrobed in panko breadcrumb batter get the French fry treatment. Served with that old Mexican favorite, "cilantro ranch" dressing, they're silly, crunchy and fun. In other words, honorable bar food.

Tacos occupy most of Cantina's one-page food menu. The best deal is "Taco Tuesday," when all tacos are $2 all day (the ones I'll be describing are otherwise $3.50).

Using decent soft corn tortillas, Cantina's various tacos receive specialized garnishes (unless ordered "truck style," with onion and cilantro). I like that. I only wish Cantina's tacos held their heat longer and weren't sometimes delivered on the chilly side.

My favorites were the zesty and excellent Chorizo and Egg (with a fried egg and bold salsa); smoky BBQ Beef Brisket (with jalapeno slaw, sweet-tangy sauce and pickled onion); and Roasted Carnitas (like juicy pulled pork with a spicy mango-pineapple salsa).

Less successful were seafood tacos like Baja Shrimp (three puny bay shrimp meant mine was mostly cabbage), Cantina Fish (nice beer batter plus spicy slaw and chipotle cream, but skimpy on the fish) and the not-bad Tempura Shrimp (with sweet Thai chile sauce).

Big salads are offered too. The Cantina Cobb ($8; try the spicy "chipotle agave" dressing) tops outnumbered fresh romaine with a barrage of crispy bacon, avocado, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, corn, cheese and more. It's a great deal.

Flatbreads, called "can-tizzas," can be layered with pepperoni or taco-style stuff. My BBQ Brisket can-tizza (with unmelted cheese, onion straws and creamy "corn souffle") had elevated junk food appeal, but its flour tortilla crust was soft and chewy.

Bottom Line: The Clintonville Local Cantina serves passable to pretty good food, but its lively sports pub atmosphere and excellent value stand out in an entertainment-hungry neighborhood.