Diablitos is the latest project from Gupreet Padda and Amy Grimes, the duo who brought us Cafe Ventana and Sanctuaria, as well as the latest incarnation of Chuy Arozoles to life. Their latest is billed as a Mexican street vendorthemed cantina, specializing in traditional south-ofthe- border favorites. Despite having just opened a couple of months ago, Diablitos has generated considerable buzz among local foodies and cocktalians, so we just had to head over to check it out.
The building has been home to a variety of restaurants through the years, but Diablitos is definitely the most visually stunning of the bunch, from the metal, sombrero-wearing T-Rexs duking it out on the roof to the assorted shrines, signs, icons and murals that adorn the interior. At the risk of being too corny, Diablitos was definitely a feast for the eyes, as well as the appetite. Despite the fact that it’s immediately adjacent to the Saint Louis University campus, it was quite apparent that Diablitos wasn’t just another student hangout.
Spectacular decor aside, the real story of Diablitos is the food and drinks. Chef de cuisine Wil Pelly has put together an expansive menu of snacks, taco and fajita platters, enchiladas and more, all made with the freshest of ingredients. Bar manager Angie Cornish, who we’re told created some of the stunning murals that adorn the walls, also has done her part behind the bar, creating a really unique drinks menu with a huge selection of tequilas and mezcals, as well as housemade tequila infusions and custom cocktails. We had our first mezcal margarita ($4) during our visit, and it definitely won’t be our last!
We really liked the deal of the Unlimited Chips and Salsa Bar ($2). Instead of just dropping a basket of chips on the table, guests can sample a wide selection of house-made salsas and as many, or as few, chips as they want for a nominal price. We highly recommend the mango salsa!
One of our favorite Mexican dishes is Baja Fish Tacos ($10), and the Diablitos version proved itself to be one of our alltime favorites. They were chockfull of pieces of battered tilapia and had plenty of cilantro, tasty cabbage slaw, lime and a spicy jalapeño tartar sauce. The tacos came with refried beans, green rice and a tangy pico de gallo.
The Carnitas ($9) caught our eye immediately when we were informed that they included pineapple-braised pork. The perfectly cooked meat, topped with adobo sauce, cotija cheese and a variety of herbs, was piled in two tender corn tortillas. The layering of flavors, from sweet to spicy, was subtle and delicious.
The Churros ($3) were served in a tiny paper bag, just as they would be on the streets of Oaxaca. These Mexican doughnuts, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, also came with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche on the side for dipping purposes.
St. Louis definitely doesn’t have a shortage of Mexican restaurants, but with its unique design and stellar food and drinks, Diablitos has already distinguished itself from the crowd.
Diablitos Cantina, 3761 Laclede Ave., 644-4430