The Momma is none other than the lovely mother of my beloved wife The Rock Star. Still boppin' away in her mid-seventies, and looking better than she has ever looked throughout her rather long life (I think she only admits to 29; I know my grandmother was that age for many years!), she sometimes treats us to dinner. Since my wife and I believe there's nothing better than free food and her gracious company, we're often quick to comply. On a recent Saturday evening, the three of us felt a hankerin' for great Mexican food, but not just any Mexican food. We wanted the great cuisine that only a high value Gourmex restaurant can provide (Gourmex = gourmet + Mexican: I just love to make up my own words!) My dear mother-in-law usually prefers her dear, beloved Mi Cocina, but with a little arm-twisting, the Rock Star and I convinced her to give Cantina Laredo a try.
My wife and I have tried two or three locations of this chain (outposts of which are now located in half-a-dozen states), and we can honestly say they don't look very much alike, since they seem to try to fit into available space. They do share several traits, however. An understated, elegant atmosphere with an attached bar area that seems to get pretty boisterous at Happy Hour. Strolling mariachi musicians (featuring an accordion along with the usual guitars). Lots of wood and brass. In a word, quite upscale yet very convival. The three of us were seated immediately with copies of their one-page, laminated menu, which we perused over glasses of the Cantina's very nice Sangria.
The cuisine at Cantina Laredo shines like a shooting star in the Southern sky. (How's that for alliteration?) From previous dining experiences, I know The Momma loves her some guacamole, and since Top Shelf Guacamole was a featured item on the menu, I suggested we order some. WOW!!! Ripe avocadoes, tomatoes, red onions, spices, and just the right amount of jalapenos and cilantro combined to make this among the finest versions of the green stuff I've ever encountered. The three of us eagerly devoured it all while awaiting delivery of our entrees. The Momma usually selects some form of nachos, but she also can't resist a good spinach enchilada and so decided to go for the Enchiladas De Espinaca. Enchiladas stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and Monterey Jack cheese were topped with a tasty but slightly bland sour cream poblano sauce. (Not to worry, just sprinkle a touch of one of the two complimentary salsas atop your order and you should be good to go.) For her part, The Rock Star ordered a combination of beef and chicken fajita meat soft tacos and I decided to join her, opting instead for the beef fajita soft tacos and Tacos Al Pastore (marinated pork). In both cases, soft flour tortillas were served brimming with perfectly spiced meat, the leftovers of which should make for excellent late-night dining one day soon. (If you think I'm going to let these heavenly babies sit for many days in the refrigerator, you've got another think coming!) Very good rice, nice borracho beans (really more like bean soup) and excellent grilled veggies completed our meal, which satisfied us all so much we could't even begin to think of dessert.
Jorge absolutely OWNED our tables, eager with suggestions and forthcoming with ready answers to questions. Cantina Laredo seems to follow the policy of not only bringing you to go boxes, but also physically BOXING UP the leftovers for you! (A practiced much appreciated by the ladies of our party.)
Cantina Laredo is owned by Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc, which owns several fine brands including Good Eats. Website can be reached at www.cantinalaredo.com. Sign up for their email club, although that link wasn't working when I tried to access it.
The Momma now declares that she has a new favorite spot for Mexican, and one visit should convince you how good it is. Visit Cantina Laredo soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!