The Cantina Loco Facts
191 Allen St, Buffalo / (716) 551-0160
Hours: Mon 4pm – 12am, Tues – Thurs 11:30 am – 12am, Fri 11:30 am – 2am, Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12pm – 8 pm
Price: $$ / Cuisine: Mexican
WEBSITE / FACEBOOK
To Mexican food lovers a great taco is a work of art. Knowing where to find your pick of several different types of consistently great tacos – PRICELESS! On the corner of Allen and Elmwood sits just such a place, where you can count on the magical combination of creativity and know-how to produce said art. Aren’t we lucky?
I’ve never been to a restaurant with food quite like Cantina Loco’s. Mexican restaurants can vary greatly, falling somewhere between authentic and Americanized. Add elements of creativity and innovation and we’re on a whole other level. Few people in WNY have mastered the art of adding a twist to a cuisine and maintaining its integrity like Chef Mike Andrzejewski.
I Love the menu at Cantina – simplicity, yet with depth. It’s the kind of menu that can be many things to many people, offering snacks, a few entrees, fun tacos and some indulgent burrito options. Plus, the extensive tequila menu doesn’t hurt – at least not until morning.
We started off by ordering a couple margaritas, all $6 each with tequila upgrades available for a small price. I’ve heard great things about the Spicy Margarita (Sauza Gyro, Juarez, Spicy Key Lime Sour, fresh jalapeño and ginger with a chile salt rim), and the Smoky sounded delicious (Del Maquey Vida Mezcal, Juarez, Key Lime sour with a smoked salt rim) but I passed on both for the unnamed, creamsicle style, special margarita of the day. My companion went with the classic House Margarita (Sauza Gyro and Juarez with Key Lime sour). Both were good. Next time, I plan to go with one of the two I overlooked. The sweet special seemed to be easily watered down by ice.
In addition to the extensive list of margaritas, Cantina offers a long drink list dripping with tequila shots, rum, wine and other signature and premium cocktails ($6-$10). A small yet solid beer menu offers some local, some Mexican and some others at decent prices ($3-$6).
Drinks in hand, we ordered chips with queso & chorizo ($6). You’ll have to move past the lack of complimentary chips and buck up for some refreshingly thin, crisp patatas fritas paired with either salsa ($3.50), guac ($5) or queso($5). Our thick, cheesy dip was great. I recommend mixing in chorizo if you’re so inclined. You’ll find the small portion is plenty.
Everything on the taco menu called my name, not to mention the burritos. We stuck to the former, wanting to try a variety. With some help from our server, we learned that the California Fish Taco came as a solo item ($6.75). We ordered two. Expecting the same from the other options, we ordered one Koreatown taco (1 for $6.95) and one Skirt Steak (2 for $6.95). The singles are bigger, featuring flour tortillas versus the corn cradling the grilled steak.
Our tacos arrived before we could put a good dent in our appetizer. The fish was delicious, “California” in the title is always a good sign. I have to admit I like my fish tacos crispy, these were just right. The cabbage, pickled onion, cilantro and spicy sauce sung to me in harmony. I knew right away I’d be back again, and again, for this stationary version of my favorite meal in western New York.
I tried to contain my excitement after my first bite of the Koreatown taco, but just couldn’t do it. The Kalbi (Korean BBQ) short ribs were accompanied by a variety of vegetables called Kimchee, also known as a traditional fermented Korean side dish. Spicy sauce and cilantro topped off this favorite with vibrant flavor.
The steak tacos were not another story. The simple concoction of sprinkled cheese, Chimichurri, pickled onion and tomato put a smile on my face. The meat was cooked just right and the corn tortillas were the perfect touch, elevating the basket of goodness to the next level.
If burritos are more your speed, I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the inciting offerings from Steak and Cheese ($8.25) to Chorizo with BBQ sauce ($7), Carnitas ($7.50) and Bean & Rice ($6).
As if a Greek siren, our server recommended the Loco Brownie for dessert. We were stuffed, but decided to take one for the team – you guys, which in the end really paid off in great flavor. The tough brownie was reminiscent of a candy bar, drizzled with caramel sauce and sea salt. The berry & cream accompaniment played perfectly. If you’re in the area and looking for an after dinner or drinks snack, I’d put this at the top of your list.
After waiting for about a half hour for a table on a Tuesday night (over at The Alley Cat), our service was good. We waited for nothing and never felt rushed. A wiser person would have made reservations, but pre-dinner drinks at a bar is always my favorite option.
As a taco/burrito lover through and through, and a huge fan of free chips, I highly recommend Cantina Loco. Perfect for a night out with friends, a fun date or if you’re craving food created by someone who truly understands it at a modest price point.