Cantina Laredo on Orlando's Restaurant Row
Cantina Laredo is among the latest in an explosion of new eateries that have opened in recent months on Restaurant Row. It joins J. Alexander's, Ocean Prime, Bar Louis, Bento Cafe and, in the same new development, Bravo! There haven't been this many new restaurants on that stretch of Sand Lake Road since early in 2001 when I first started calling the area Orlando's new Restaurant Row.
Cantina Laredo is something of an upscale Mexican restaurant and is a brand of Consolidated Restaurants out of Dallas, although I would equate its upscalishness along the same lines as Seasons 52, another Restaurant Row inhabitant. It's more of an upscale casual atomsphere.
It's an attractive restaurant, with comfortable booths and moody lighting. A fireplace in the dining room on the cool night I first visited added a sense of warmth if not actual heat.
The menu isn't exactly authentic Mexican -- the nachos, fajitas and crepes would't be found on many menus south of our border, unless it was a restaurant specializing in Ameri-Mex cuisine.
My guest and I started with the "top shelf guacamole" ($9.49). Actually, we started with margaritas, which were pretty darned tasty. And it's a good thing, too, because we had to wait a ridiculously long time for the guacamole engiineer to bring the guac fixings to the table. I've never quite understood the allure of tableside guacamole presentation -- it's not quite as dramatic as watching someone flambe bananas Foster or even mash anchovies and toss a Caesar salad. I suppose it's done to prove that the ingredients are fresh, but I don't think I would have had a question about that. The avocados were loosely chopped, as they should be, and blended with tomatoes, red onions and a bit of lemon. It could have used some salt to draw out the flavors, but we took care of that by adding our own. I don't think it quite was worth the hefty price tag, but it was darned good guac.
For my entree I chose four: the Cantina laredo platter ($16.29) that had cheese chile relleno, tamale, chicken enchilada and taco al carbon. The chile relleno was the star of the platter, a mildly piquant poblano filled with creamy cheese. But the chicken enchilada was a close second.
My friend had the enchiladas de mole ($12.29), which featured the same delicious chicken enchilada but smothered with a complexly seasoned mole. The sauce was nicely done.
Service was inexplicably slow and unapologetic about it, too. There didn't seem to be any management types about.
Except for the obscenely overpriced guacamole (labor charges were undoubtedly tacked on) most of the items are fairly priced, with many in the low teens. My platter was a bargain at $16.29.
I would return to Cantina Laredo, maybe even just to have a margarita and some chips and appetizers. I would hope by then they will have improved the service and gained a better sense of timing.
Cantina Laredo is at 8000 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando (one block west of Dr. Phillips Blvd.). The phone number is 407-345-0186.