#262: Cantina Laredo

11:45AM / Oct. 30, 2021

I made a slight boo boo here, this is actually a chain with 21 locations far and wide (Abu Dhabi appears to be the furthest out). I suppose this is a good first candidate for my relaxed chain rules. This wasn’t even my first choice today, I pulled up at a sushi place a little earlier and realized the hours listed were not the same as I found online. I need to get in the habit of checking multiple sources for operating hours, with everything in flux these days. Well let’s get on with it, shall we?

Today for lunch I visited Cantina Laredo, an upscale-ish, modern Mexican restaurant located in the Galleria’s Promenade. The play area in front of the Cantina was busy with activity. Inside it was much quieter, just a few tables were seated. The large space is clean and well lit. A large rectangular 360º bar is the centerpiece. Surrounding it is standard table seating and booths round the space out along the walls. I was greeted right away by the host and elected to take a seat at the bar.

I skimmed over the 2-sided menu (sorry, only ended up with a photo of 1 side somehow, check it out online here) for a drink and ordered a Modelo Negro (apparently misheard as a regular Modelo, no biggie – they’re both good). Chips and salsa were served up with my beer. The chips were unremarkable. Not warm, little to no salt. The salsa was tasty and it reminded me of a more finely blended version of Chevy’s salsa.

I struggled a bit on what to order. Along with getting back into the swing of trying new restaurants I want to veer at least a little bit away from my usual food selections and check out other things. Barring this I probably would have picked the Crispy Carnitas Bowl (Pork carnitals, cilantro lime rice, black beans, corn, jalapeno, pico de gallo and Monterey Jack, with chipotle wine sauce & cilantro)[$14.50]. Instead I went back and forth a bit on some Pescado tacos or enchiladas, eventually settling on the vegetarian Espinaca Enchiladas (Two enchiladas with sautéed spinach, Monterey Jack and mushrooms, with sour cream poblano sauce, served with cilantro lime rice and black beans)[$16.50].

I snacked on chips while my entree was prepared. It was a quick ten or so minutes to be brought out, on a hot plate as I was warned. The dish was pretty simple. The enchiladas were covered in in their striped white and green sauce and flanked by the black beans and rice. I’m kinda of so/so on cilantro, but let me say the rice was very flavorful with it and really out-shined the beans, which were quite bland in comparison. Despite the hot plate, the thin layer of beans did not have enough heat in them to melt the cheese over top and the plate ended up cooling down rapidly, never giving them a chance to do so.

My enchiladas were straightforward. The soft tortilla was easily cut with a fork, revealing the spinach and mushrooms inside. The whole thing was well balanced and I got a bit of every flavor in each bite. The poblano sauce was nice and creamy with the layer of sour cream to compliment it, but I do wish it were a bit more bold and upfront.

Overall a pretty good lunch. I liked the atmosphere and it seems like a good spot for happy hour with a lively crowd. Prices were on the higher side, which I suppose is par for the course at the Galleria. I received a glowing recommendation for this place from a co-worker a while ago and I would like to return at some point to check out that carnitas bowl. Based on this visit I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5.



#247: Moe’s Southwest Grill

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It feels like we’ve had a lot of traditionally non-California chains expanding into our area over the last couple of years.  Moe’s is one of the newest and I was brought here by an offer of a free burrito for downloading their rewards app.  They are located at the corner of Sunrise and Cirby, in the new building next to Starbucks.  Since they’re a big chain I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but my overall impression is that it’s like a more colorful version of Chipotle.

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My burrito was the following: pulled pork, southwestern rice, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, grilled bell peppers, sour cream, guacamole, corn salsa and a creamy southwest-type of dressing with a bit of heat, then finally finished off with a dash of their hottest sauce.  It had to be double-tortilla wrapped due to how stuffed it was.  Overall it was enjoyable.  I must admit however that I have a huge love for Freebirds and will most likely continue to go there for my spicy burrito needs.  One nice thing here is that they deep fry their complimentary tortilla chips right in-store.  Downside is that the side of guac I got was tiny (+$2.80 for the guac and a soda).

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#245: La Fiesta Alteña

La Fiesta Alteña is a new Mexican taqueria located at Lead Hill & Eureka in the old Mas location.  They worked on it for many months and I was surprised to see it was open one day when I was going to a movie at Century 14 in the same center.  On Friday I met my mom for some dinner to try it out.

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We arrived at 5:30 and headed in.  The front door is not obvious, aside from a small little engraved, office-like plaque that said “Entrance”.  They had the far patio door open at the time and, while we went in the front (I stopped in previously to take a peek), we noticed a lot of people walk right past it and head into the patio area, then eventually find their way inside.  When you first walk in it feels like this will be an order-at-the-counter type of place.  There are registers and LCD displays set up at what looks like a counter that you should approach.  Instead, those are for the servers use, and we were greeted and shown to a table.

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The interior has seen extensive remodeling, and it feels very open now, with only a handful of booths in some areas.  The patio is still a fairly unique one in that it is open to the outside, yet sheltered with high glass walls from the wind and elements.  Heaters and fans should keep the space usable year-round.

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When we sat down and started looking over the menus we both noticed that they had the air conditioners BLASTING.  It was downright cold inside on this high-90s day (may have been 100, it was hot either way).  This comes into play, I feel, in a couple ways.  The first was obvious.  Later, they opened the door to the patio from inside the restaurant.  Quickly, a lot of the cool air was lost to the outside and the temperature rose to a more comfortable level.  I’ll get to the 2nd in a moment.

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We skimmed the menus, including the happy hour options (link to the menu, drinks and happy hour here).  I ordered a Model Special [$4 happy hour] and my mom got a margarita [$6 happy hour].  These came out right about the time we ordered.  I decided on the Chile Verde (slow cooked succulent pork, coated with roasted jalapeños and tangy tomatillos served with rice and refried beans)[$11.75].  My mom got the happy hour Nachos with chicken (choice of asada, pastor, carnitas, pollo with melted cheese, guacamole & sour cream)[$5].  We were also served chips and a trio of salsas.

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The chips were very standard, nothing special.  The pico de gallo was the most flavorful and was clearly fresh.  The other, more blended salsa packed a nice heat to it, but otherwise didn’t have much going on.  The beans were warm, mild and enjoyable.

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Our orders came out in roughly ten minutes.  The nacho plate was impressive for $5.  My picture, I am realizing as I look at it now, does not really do it justice.  The plate is actually an oval and it looks like a small circle how I shot it.  That and it was deeper than you’d expect.  It consisted of the same average chips, but was totally loaded with the toppings and there was plenty left over at the end.  This is a great value.

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My chile verde tasted pretty good and had some nice spice and flavor from the jalapeños, however the pork was not quite as tender as I anticipated.  The beans and rice were very standard.  There was a ton of cool sour cream.  At first I didn’t see any guacamole, but later found it hidden under some stray lettuce from the little salad.  It was fresh and delicious.  This is where I think the 2nd point about the air conditioning comes into play.  My plate was somewhat cold, and as a result the beans, rice and chili verde were all room temperature at best.  I think the overlay-chilled air had caused the plates in the kitchen to end up colder than usual, and they definitely didn’t warm them up prior to plating.  It just sapped all the heat out of the food.  That was pretty disappointing.  The nacho plate seemed to be OK though.

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Towards the end of our dinner a mariachi band set up in the patio on a raised stage and started cranking out music.  It was heard pretty easily inside with the door open, and was fairly loud in the patio.  I took a little bit of video (below) before we left.

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The heat issue will leave an impression in my mind but I do think this is definitely a good spot for happy hour.  Those nachos were a great deal for $5.

Website: http://lafiestaaltena.com

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here