La Cantina opened earlier this year in Webster Groves, and is the second eatery for Roberto Trevino, who also owns Amigo's Cantina in neighboring Kirkwood. We found it to be every bit the equal of his flagship eatery.
A well-made margarita is a definite sign of a quality Mexican restaurant, and the House Margarita ($8) at La Cantina was a solid example of this often-abused classic. It had tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and a little bit of agave nectar. That's it. For those used to margaritas whipped up from pre-made mixes in slushee machines, do yourself a favor and head over to La Cantina to taste one done right. We enjoyed a couple of these as we plowed through an order of Trevino's Guacamole ($6), avocado with tomato, lime juice, green chile, onion, garlic and cilantro, which we used to finish off the ubiquitous bottomless basket of tortilla chips on the table.
The main portion of the La Cantina menu was centered around botanas, basically small plates. The guacamole was the lead item of the Botanas Chiquitas list, so after finishing that plate off, we chose the Camarones a la Mojo ($10) from the larger portions under Botanas Grandes. This dish consisted of jumbo shrimp sauteed with roasted garlic, a chipotle adobo puree with spicy rice and pico de gallo. There was a 'Very Spicy' warning next this on the menu, which was reason enough to order it up. Truthfully, it did have some kick but not too much heat, just a little initial fiery flare that mellowed quickly into a delicious, smoky finish. Still on a shrimp quest, next up was the Camarones ($8) from the Quesadillas Pequenas choices. Again, plenty of jumbo shrimp formed the foundation, augmented with onion, tomato, green chile, cilantro, lime juice and two types of cheese, Oaxaca and goat. It was all contained in a flour tortilla and baked to perfection, just enough to crisp up the tortilla and help the cheese attain that choice, gooey consistency.
Filled with surf, we hit up a turf offering. The Bistec Tacos ($10), from the Rellenos Para Tacos, were strips of tender marinated steak, which were sauteed with poblano pepper, onion and bell pepper. We wrapped ours up in corn tortillas, though flour ones also were available.
To cap things off, we had a dish of Cinnamon Ice Cream ($3) from the Postres selections, though next time we aim to save some room for the Xangos ($8), described on the menu as "cheesecake wrapped in a pastry tortilla and fried until flaky."
La Cantina is housed in a corner building that formerly housed Two Nice Guys. There was plenty of elbow room in the dining room, including a two-level balcony. The atmosphere was relaxed, and Trevino himself made the rounds of the dining room, greeting customers and checking on service. He let it slip that a happy hour was in the works, which should be good news for parched workers who find themselves in downtown Webster after clocking out. With quality food, good digs and an affordable price point, La Cantina should be on the dining-out list for all fans of south of the border flavor.
La Cantina, 35 N. Gore Ave., 968-3256, lacantinawebster.com.