Friday, May 25, 2012

Cantina Loco in Buffalo

If you know me, you know Mexican isn't my first, second or third choice of cuisine to eat, let alone pick to go out and order at a restaurant.  So when my boyfriend suggested Cozumel for dinner last night, I wouldn't say I was thrilled, but I think my exact words were, "I'm willing to branch out for the sake of blogging." It didn't hurt that one of the Buffalo dining cards was to Cozumel, and they have a nice patio, so off we went. 

When we arrived there weren't any tables available on the patio so we started the wait list and walked over to the outdoor bar. Before we could even order a drink, the hostess let us know a table was opening up, so we were seated. The hostess quickly brought over some awesome chips and salsa and the wait began. We sat for 15 minutes, as every server passed us over, waiting on their other tables. Finally my chef boyfriend said, "Let's go", so we let the hostess know and walked out, hungry and angry. 

Cantina Loco, just down the street on the corner of Elmwood and Allen, was somewhere we had both been wanting to try out since it opened, so we walked down. They had a waiting list of about 45 minutes, but we found a spot at the bar and quickly ordered two margaritas ($6.00 a glass). The margaritas really hit the spot on the warm Buffalo night, and if I wasn't driving home, I would have suggested ordering a pitcher. Next time! 

When two seats opened at the bar, we sat down and asked bartender Viktoria if we could order food. As we looked over the menu, we ended up ordering four items to share; Tamales ($6.00), the Veggie Quesadilla ($4.00), the Carnita and Chicken burritos ($6.00 each). 

Our tamales and quesadilla came out first and to be honest, we could have had just those two things and been full. The quesadilla (my pick) was enormous. It was the size of the entire plate, cut into 8 pieces, each piece topped with a jalapeno. I was convinced the bartender thought we meant something else, because there was absolutely no way that plate could only cost $4.00. The quesadilla was delicious, cooked perfectly, with cheese oozing out and the vegetables filled with flavor. When our bill came, I was stunned to see it did in fact only cost $4.00. This menu item is by far the best deal in the city, probably in Western New York! The tamales were great too, and my boyfriend said they were the best he's had! 

By the time the burritos came out, my stomach was full, so I only took a few bites of each burrito, but they were both extremely tasty. The entire meal made me a Mexican food convert, and I'm already looking forward to going back. 

There have been a handful of times in the past year where I've tried somewhere new and been positively giddy the rest of the night: Blue Monk, Black Rock Kitchen & Bar and Betty's. Add, Cantina Loco to the list. What started out with disappointing service at Cozumel, turned into one of the best dining experiences I've had. 

The restaurant itself has an upscale rustic feel to it with awesome Edison bulbs along the bar, and wood accents throughout the restaurant. There are less than 20 tables (plus the seating at the bar), and while it is small, I didn't feel cramped. The large bar, lined up with more tequilas than I could count, and a slushie machine I wished I had, is the perfect place to enjoy happy hour with co-workers or a fun night out with a date or friends. The three bartenders were working hard, and interacted with the customers making it a fun and enjoyable night for everyone. The service was outstanding (a word I rarely use), and we really appreciated all the "check ins" from our bartender.

We left with half of the quesadilla and chicken burrito, and a new favorite "hot spot" downtown. I've mentioned Cantina Loco today to pretty much anyone who would listen, and I am so happy with the quality of the "newer" restaurants in the area.

In addition to the restaurant, they have a small take out area which could be a dangerous place if you live in the Elmwood Village or Allentown. With the low cost of menu items and extremely high quality of food, I have a feeling I'll be getting back down there soon. 

If you go to one new place this summer, make it Cantina Loco. 

For more reviews on Cantina Loco, click here:
Cantina Loco on Urbanspoon

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