Cantina Mexicana, Crystal City
Posted 05 January 2008 - 08:04 PM
Guajillo, Taqueria National, los Tipos - I hate them. I do. I hate them because they claim to have Tex Mex food. They taunt me with visions of rat trap cheese, tamales without the abhorrent little bits of vegetables stuck in the masa, refried beans the texture of putty, big greasy chimichangas, and a certain exoticness without threat that is reminiscent of Old El Paso products and the Patio burrito, if only it were good.
Tex Mex is about Ro-Tel tomatoes, chili powder, pinto beans, and always garnished with a slice of bell pepper. It does not challenge - it is the all-inclusive family resort of ethnic food. It is not threatening, it is tacos, enchiladas, chalupas, and the rare chile relleno. It comforts, its says 'Buenas Dias, y'all'
Oh my darlings. I have found the sole outpost of the TexMex family in Restaurant Row. It is not for those of you who crave the authentic experience of other people, but it is soulful, caring, and soothing. It also has margaritas the size of your head - a $10 margarita at La Cantina will come out in a glass the size of a cookie tin, more booze than mix, and nicely salted. It does not care about fresh lime juice or fancy salt - its is all mix out of a bottle. But it is a good quality mix from somewhere, the bartender is kind, and they will call you a cab if you drink too many.
Like the TexMex of my youth, they cultivate excess at a bargain price. For $11, I got the Special Combination, which came with a beef taco (greasy, crispy shell, spiced ground beef, cheese, chopped iceberg lettuce and tomato on the top), a tamale (stuffed with shredded beef and not a single damn vegetable in sight), two cheese enchiladas (a good red enchilada sauce, filled with some kind of delicious, yet synthetic cheese), and the ubiquitous bean s and spanish rice (a nice shade of orange. and topped with a slice of bell pepper. As it should be.) Mr. Beezy ordered a chicken chimichanga, lightly fried, and stuffed with a nice quality of chicken.
Other tables had fajitas with great big shrimp the size of my thumb (I have great big mitts), with a good ration of meat to vegetable. They even have the not tex-mex option of fried yucca, crispy, light and served with a great slaw and juicy yet crispy fried pork.
This is Mexican food that does not care for being authentic food that any self-respecting Mexican would actually eat. This is the cuisine that Bubba heads out to eat on Friday night with a cervezo, letting out a polite burp and sigh of satisfaction before hitching up his belt and waddling out to the car. This is where you can drink margaritas and eat nachos with the girls during happy hour until you are tipsy, without anyone judging or implying that you should be at the gym. It is so greasy and creamy and only mildly spiced, and I love it so. I hope you do too.
Posted 14 January 2008 - 10:21 AM
As for the food, La Cantina does not try to be anything more than what Beezy described, but they excel where other fail. The chicken in my sour cream enchilada was moist and flavorful, the sauces were nothing too heady but they played well. The Tacos El Carbon was filled with flavorful meat with just the right amount of chew. Both dishes that we tried were served with the customary rice and beans, however these were of better quality than what other local Tex-Mex joints in the area serve.
For Mexican I will always choose Guajillo, but down and dirty Tex-Mex La Cantina has risen to the top.
Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:34 PM
Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:40 PM
If you want another, next time try the blue corn chicken enchiladas.
Thanks for the recommendation!
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