Location: 4635 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Phone: 561 622-1223. www.cantinalaredo.com
“Modern Mexican” is the tagline for Cantina Laredo, a chain of restaurants located in 15 states, the UK and also The United Arab Emirates. I think of it as “upscale” Mexican, personally. And while you can get many of the staples that one thinks of when craving something from south of the border; like tacos or enchiladas, you can also get an assortment of steaks, fajitas that include quail as a main ingredient, chicken dishes stuffed with shrimp or covered with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and spinach, and a fish of the day. There is also my personal favorite, Carnitas, which are braised pork shanks topped with a spicy chipotle-wine sauce. The meat is so tender, all you need is a fork, and the sauce sometimes catches up to me when I’d rather it didn’t, but so worth it!
I absolutely love Mexican food. Throughout my years in college I worked at a small Mexican joint in Wakefield, Rhode Island. It had the best guacamole and this unforgettable fish taco topped with a chipotle mayo coleslaw. It was a small mom and pop operation called Surfin’ Tacos, and in my humble opinion it was one of the first establishments that revolutionized the way Mexican food was prepared. They used all fresh ingredients and bought local from RI farms. Since then there’s been a high influx of these “fresh” and “gourmet” Mexican chains. Surfin’ Tacos didn’t stay afloat, but I still think of it fondly…especially when I think about all the cooking experience and killer recipes that I acquired. I still follow their recipes and think of myself as a fairly ruthless judge when it comes to Mexican food as a whole. This was my first time at Cantina Laredo and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard from several people that their guacamole was unbelievable, so that was the first thing I ordered. The thing I most liked about this was watching our server prepare it tableside. They used almost all the same ingredients that I use when I make it at home, with a few added surprises. I found the guac very flavorful and enjoyed it thoroughly. I even made some mental notes on how to amend my recipe at home!
“What the faaahhkk? Eat some guac!!” An actual line Maria said to me one day when we were being silly. Thinking we might pitch it to avocado growers as the tagline for an ad campaign. Maybe not. Anyway, the guacamole is fabulous and made to order, no small dish from the back room that’s been sitting there all day. A certain, “must order”, for any chunky, green-dipping lover. The ambiance is also quite good at Cantina Laredo. Soft lighting, very clean with plenty of cozy booths. As luck would have it, we were there on a Wednesday, and they happen to have a promotion of half price bottles of wine every hump day. (Not sure what it is about Wednesdays. If you save room, you can go across the street to Spoto’s for dollar oyster shooters too.) The wine list is not that bad, decent selection, and our $27 bottle became $13.50. Nice. Almost Publix priced.
The half priced bottle of wine was a definite bonus. For my main dish I had the fish of the day, a Chilean sea bass in a delicious mango buerre blanc. It was delightful! My only complaint would be the filet size. Whoever said size doesn’t matter wasn’t talking about sea bass. As a matter of fact – I don’t agree with that statement at all, but I digress. I do understand it was most likely a lunch portion and Chilean sea bass prices are through the roof, but I thought they could have given me a few more ounces for my buck. The food was good, but I did feel that it was minutely overpriced. Overall, I had a nice experience and would definitely revisit on a Wednesday for the wine deal. I am just the type of woman who likes to get her money’s worth. Furthermore, I prefer to get my Mexican food at some hole-in-the-wall stand in California, with a tiny Mexican woman cooking up my carne asada burrito. Of course, that can’t always be a reality. But, some of you will understand – once you’ve been there for Mexican, it just doesn’t seem the same anywhere else.
I can understand her feelings here. She has a much more extensive backround in Mexican food than I do. Maybe I can find her that special hole-in-the-wall, I’ll try. Another problem though, other than the size issue, is Maria is totally spoiled when it comes to Chilean sea bass. You see, The River House has the BEST you can find anywhere, and we are forever comparing to them, quite unsuccessfully I might add. I will suggest she tries something else on our next visit. If you are driving home from work and hankering for Mexican with a $10 bill in your pocket, stop at Taco Bell and get a bag of tacos. If you get home from work, and you and your honey would like to sit down and enjoy a well prepared Mexican dinner, by all means, give Cantina Laredo a try. And if it’s Wednesday, even better.
Maria’s Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses.
Ross Rating: 3.75 Wine Glasses.