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Cantina Loco! Meh.

  • Aaron F.

There’s been a buzz about a new mexican style restaurant opening in Allentown here in Buffalo, NY.  Nicole had been reading up on the place months before it had even opened and had been pretty excited about it.  Friday night, we got together with some friends had decided to give it a try.

The outside of the building looked great; including the fantastic vintage sign they put up outside.  It really is different than anything else on the street. I love it when these empty spaces come alive from the exciting makeovers they get when a business moves in.  It’s nice to see change beginning to happen throughout different neighborhoods.

If you are going on a weekend night, prepare for absolutely no parking and a series of one way streets that make things even  more difficult and obnoxious.  Luckily after traveling around the block several times, I was actually able to find something somewhat close to the restaurant.  I had dropped the ladies off at the restaurant prior to my parking adventure, so they were inside at the table.  That’s right…”ladies”.

The inside was packed with people of all ages and it was insanely loud.  We got a table that was a few feet from the packed bar (about 4 people deep) so occasionally we’d get bumped into.  As an experiment, our friend sitting at the end of the table (we were there with 5 people, so our table was a regular 4 top with an extra chair stuck on the end) tilted her head backward and it came to rest on a young man standing at the bar.  That’s how close the dining area is to the bar.  I did my best to ignore that and took a look at the menu.

The owner of this restaurant also owns another restaurant in the city that is known for great sushi and incredible inventive menu items.  This menu was small, simple, and surprisingly boring.  I’m not saying that the menu options didn’t look appetizing, it was easy to find something that I was going to eat, but I think with the amount of build up this restaurant had, we were all just expecting something a little more.  I ordered a beer, and Nicole went with a “Smoked Margarita.”  Her drink was pretty amazing and had a really awesome smokey flavor from the smoked salt they used on the glass.  A pretty impressive drink.

We started off with “Nachos Locos”, an attractive presentation of 2 cheeses, Pork, Onion, Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Pablano cream.  The nachos were pretty tasty although the chips were too thin for the load which made it difficult to pick up any toppings.  Other than this, they tasted great.  Nicole was a big fan of them.

After the nachos, I ordered the Steak and Cheese Burrito.  It consisted of grilled steak, cheese, rice and pinto beans.   The steak was seasoned well and very tender.  I’ve had steak burritos at other places, and the steak ends up being tough making the whole experience pretty awful.  This was pretty good.

Not a fan of the open burrito.  Finish the job.  Close my burrito.  The shell was semi toasted which made it impossible to finish wrapping it.  You ended up having to eat this “burrito” like a floppy, sloppy taco.

Nicole ordered the “Carnita”, which was pork, avocado, lettuce, cheese, cilantro, onion, and lime.  Hers was pretty tasty, the ingredients were incredibly fresh, and she enjoyed it.  After a taste, I think that I liked hers better than mine. Our other friends ordered the Bean and Cheese burrito, Chicken burrito, Fish taco and Koreatown taco.  Everyone pretty much said the same thing, it was good, but nothing blew anyone away. 

The over-all experience was average for me.  The insanely loud atmosphere was tough to deal with.  It made it impossible to have a conversation without screaming while the person you’re talking to leans in, aiming their one ear at you while tilting their head.  We were there on a Friday night though, and maybe stopping in for lunch or during the week would have manageable noise levels.  The burritos were tasty, but I don’t necessarily know if they would be something I would seek out.  We live in the city of Buffalo, a city with an unbelievable amount of food options.  I’m not going to tell you that Cantina Loco is bad, because its not.  But its not excellent, its average.  If you’re in the area and looking for great Mexican food, look elsewhere.  If you’re looking for a hip restaurant with plenty of nightlife, this may be your place.

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