Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cantina 76

When this place first opened,  Neil and I checked it out.  We enjoyed it, but I remember thinking that it wasn't exactly my favorite.  Anyway, we got busy with having a baby and all that that entails and our dining out schedule was drastically altered.  I've been back to Cantina 76 a few times with friends for drinks and a snack, but not for a proper meal.  

Yesterday, my daughter and I decided we should eat lunch out.  Since the Vivver has recently became a queso fanatic, I thought, hmmm let's try out the Cantina again.  It's a local joint, it's close to home, they have queso.  Off we went.  

First, the server informed us that margaritas for two for one, so naturally, we couldn't pass up a deal like that.  Neil ordered his on the rocks, no salt.  This is important to remember.  He hates salt on, in, or near his margarita.  Next, we ordered chips with salsa, guacamole and queso.  Let's start here.  First, the margaritas arrived and after our server left the table, I realized Neil was muttering under his breath.  Yep. you guessed it.  Salt on the rim of his glass.  

Something else to remember about Neil.  Most of the time, he doesn't want to waste time calling the waitress back over, sending it back, waiting for a new one.  Waiting is not his strong suit.  So, he wiped the salt off the glass, but still wasn't a happy muchacho about it because, as I'm sure you can imagine, some of that salt always finds its way into the drink.  ~no bueno~

Now, the appetizers were a different story.  The salsa tasted very fresh; light bright fresh tomato flavor.  It had all the usual players: onion, cilantro, garlic and it was nice and spicy too.  The guacamole really surprised me because I've come to expect restaurant guac to disappoint me because I think my homemade guac is beyond compare.  This was pretty darn good for restaurant guacamole, however.  It was seasoned well and had nice, big chunks of buttery avocado in it!  The queso was also quite good...when I could manage to slide a chip in there, as the little queso afficianada was dominating the bowl.  The chips were a little thick for my taste and seemed as though they'd been made yesterday, but not inedible by any means.

I was starving, so I ordered two tacos:  the roasted chicken ( Roasted chicken with shredded cheese, pico de gallo and southwestern ranch) and the Peruvian shrimp ( Lightly fried shrimp, sweet sesame chili sauce, topped with a jalapeño cole slaw.)  Neil had been snacking earlier in the day, so he opted for just one fish taco (Fried tilapia with pickled jalapeños and a roasted poblano tartar.)  

This was my order

Mine were both very good but I think I liked the shrimp the best.  The shrimp were crisp with a light batter and the flavors of the chili sauce were very nice together.  I didn't pick up any jalapeno at all, but the slaw was still flavorful and worked well with the sauce.  I also enjoyed the chicken but I added a touch of salt and some Cholula hot sauce.  I felt like it just needed a little extra punch of something.  And, serving the roasted chicken at a hotter temp would have improved it as well.   

Peruvian shrimp taco

Roasted chicken taco
Neil's fish taco was a little lackluster in his book.  He's a jalapeno fanatic so he always asks for heavy jalapeno and usually asks for some on the side too, because rarely does anyone really understand HOW MANY peppers he's talking about.  So, his taco was fish, peppers and the poblano tartar.  Just as an observer, I bet adding some of the slaw from the shrimp taco would have added some crunch and personality to this one.  I asked Neil how it tasted and his reply was "like it looked."  You can draw your own conclusions from that...

Fish taco for Neil
 Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Cantina 76.  I see some small adjustments in their menu items I'd make if I owned the place, but no major overhauls are needed here.  The cool thing about this restaurant is their creative taco offerings.  They remind me of the Taco Boy at Folly Beach in regard to the different and interesting tacos that are featured.  Not many other places in Columbia are thinking outside of the taco/burrito box!  

I think sometimes being a home cook (who actually enjoys cooking) can be a little bit of a curse, because you become so analytical and if you make a dish at home that you love, then rarely does a restaurant version stack up.  But, don't get me wrong...I'm not gonna quit cookin' and I'm not gonna quit going out either!  (I do make a mean shrimp taco, though, if I do say so myself.)


Cantina 76 on Urbanspoon

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