When you walk into a bar and are immediately greeted by the promise of self serve chips and salsa, you jump on that offer. When the salsa is freshly housemade with chunks of tomatoes and refreshing cilantro served in a trough, you take advantage all night. And when that bar happens to feature one of the best beer lists in the city, a fantastic atmosphere and above-par service, you immediately notch it up as your new favorite watering hole. Welcome to Local Cantina.
Among mustaches of various sizes, the exterior of Local Cantina promises bad service, warm beer and a few other schticky phrases. After stepping through the faux barn doors and being immediately struck by the impressive atmosphere, I realized that Local Cantina does at least one thing incredibly well: Under-promise and over-deliver. Times about a million. The schticky phrases reminding me of Ed Debevic’s and Dick’s Last Resort were a total bait and switch. This place is the real deal.
Local Cantina is a new bar/taco truck/restaurant/paradise in the Grandview Center. About six weeks ago Local Cantina opened in the old Aladdin’s Eatery space, and we were dumbfounded by how everything seemed to be created to cater to our whims. Reclaimed wood, interesting antiques, general enthusiasm for mustaches–everything was coming up Laura.
We sat down on the comfortable bright red barstools (with backs!!!) and were immediately greeted by a friendly bartender wearing a Batman T-shirt and a huge smile. She informed us that the chips and salsa were self serve, and asked if we needed drinks. (For the record, every single thing in life should feature troughs of self serve chips and delicious homemade salsa as Local Cantina does.) She knew her beer, and she walked us through the 16 drafts and explained very well a few that I had never heard of. Mole Ocho? Interesting. I opted for a delicious cocktail, The St. James Infirmary, which was fittingly served in a jar. She had a great sense of humor, was willing to chat with us about the space and offerings, and made it immediately apparent to me that I would be back to Local Cantina.
In addition to the antique washing machine that serves as the home for the chips and salsa, much of the decor is antique or reclaimed. The bar is constructed with old doors, which allows for the very smart use of the doorknobs for purse hangers. The long L-shaped bar top is made of copper, and Galaga and Skee-ball offer entertainment in addition to the four televisions. Hubcaps line the top of the wall (bring an authentic hubcap they don’t have, and you’ve won yourself a free drink) and sombreros, ponchos and a pretty impressive homage to the Virgin Mary underline the Cantina portion of this new spot.
In addition to the 16 beers on draft, eight margarita menu and inspired cocktails, Local Cantina has a fantastic bottle selection. Chicago-made 5 Rabbit, which was hard to find even in Chicago, has a good presence here. A rotating list of bombers offer a great selection of otherwise nearly impossible-to-find beers, and the night we were there a $99 bottle of Stone Double Bastard was begging patrons to take the plunge and share with their table. A handful of macrobrews and hipster beers were available as well for those unimpressed with their craft lineup.
The tables remind me of my Grandma’s kitchen table, each with its own bottle of Sriracha, and everything about Local Cantina screams comfort to me. The playlist was more or less directly stolen from my iPod, and after about 45 minutes into our visit I realized that I’d seen most of the bands live. Portugal. The Man, The Black Keys, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses and a slew of other acts that make my alt-loving heart happy provided a wonderful backdrop to my uncomfortably messy shoveling of chips and salsa into my gob.
The menu is set up in an a la carte manner, which allows for a good variety of sampling. We started with the queso fundido which was filled with chunks of chorizo, jalapenos and general deliciousness. When the chorizo is turning my melty cheese a tiny bit orange, that’s when I know it’s working. I had the beef brisket taco, which was a perfect mix of sweet and savory, and my husband had the burrito, which was a formidable size and yet affordable. For $2 extra you can add sides such as guacamole and beans to your order, and the menu features a number of quesadillas, appetizers and general Mexican fare. We loved that the tacos came one per order so that if we wanted to go nuts on sampling the interesting menu, we could try a number of the items without looking even more like pigs.
The relaxed atmosphere coupled with our bartender’s sense of humor and knowledge of the beer menu kept our attention for three good rounds. Outdoor string globe lights make this feel a bit like you’re hanging out in someone’s backyard, in the best way. I sampled The Mustache Ride margarita as my final drink, which was delicious, but probably not something I’ll have again as I’d rather stick with the other cocktails and impressive beer list. During our nearly two-hour stay at Local Cantina, not one table left the bar. Families and young professionals alike enjoyed the atmosphere as it caters to all ages while making it comfortable for anyone who just wants to hang out and booze.
While we walked to Local Cantina, I realized I needed to use the bathroom as soon as we got there. As we walked out of Local Cantina, I realized that I had been so impressed by the atmosphere, service, drinks, food and overall execution, that I had completely forgotten to go. Local Cantina was so surprisingly awesome for me, that I forgot to execute basic bodily functions. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you know that Local Cantina is an absolute wonder.
Local Cantina is located at 1423 Grandview Avenue and offers a 15% “Mustache Discount” on the first drink. So come moustachioed and ready to booze.