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Restaurant Review: Mezcal Cantina & Grill

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Mezcal Cantina & GrillAll photos by Mollie Lyman.
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When it comes to judging Mexican restaurants, there are all sorts of measuring sticks…

1) Is it authentic? How similar is it to the cantina you visited in Cancun during spring break? Are intestines on the menu?

2) The quality of the chile releno.

3) How much free chips and salsa do you get?

In the interests of full disclosure, the standard by which Mezcal will be measured will be how this question is answered: Was it any good? The answer is yes.

The menu features chorizo macaroni and cheese and Mexican pizza, so you already know it’s not going to impress self-anointed international authentic cuisine experts. Mezcal should probably brand itself as “fusion cuisine”; people get excited by fusion.

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Walking in, the restaurant has a polished look. There are a few ethnic touches — some sugar candy skulls, for example, but not an abundance of sombrero-y knickknacks. Nor is there south-of-the-border music on the loudspeakers, the flavor is more alt-rock.

At least, it was alt-rock, until a trio of senior citizens marched in. Using his best outdoor voice, one bellowed at the host, “Can you turn that crap off?” End of music. But, some bonus points to the restaurant staff for being kind and accommodating beyond human understanding.

Points also for some pleasant bar/appetizer fare. The Chipotle Chicken Pizza ($8), for example, succeeds on the strength of its sauce; it’s a full-bodied, pulpy “chipotle marinara”. That element, combined with copious levels of melted cheese, shreds of chicken, and peppers on flatbread, delivers bite after bite of filling satisfaction.

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Inevitably, there is a burger. There are actually several burgers on the menu. The Chorizo Queso Burger ($8.75) features a burger with the extra savory flavor of chorizo, drippy queso and the foil of a cooling cilantro-lime slaw.

Meanwhile, the Spinach and Artichoke Quesadilla ($8) is ridiculous. Inside the tender tortilla is a homogenous, rich green spread with more melted cheese and an occasional slice of tomato. There’s nothing to dislike in that equation, though it’s reminiscent of something that might be concocted in the throws of drunken munchies. For extra oddness, it’s served with french fries.

Chorizo Mac N’ Cheese ($8) is where things get seriously good. A collection of bouncy noodles provides a base that is thoroughly populated with bits of chorizo. It’s not just a crumb or two, there is chorizo in every bite and the hue is vaguely pinkish from the saturation of spicy sausage. It’s creamy, it’s spicy, and it made a fan out of a dining partner who doesn’t even like macaroni and cheese.

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Or for those who must have something a little more classic, there is solace in the Carnitas Verde ($13). It provides impossibly tender pork with a really nice tomatillo/avocado salsa. The dish comes with sides of black beans and seasoned rice –both of good quality. It’s a great meal, by any measuring stick.

And for the drinking crew, there’s a full bar, plus occasional tequila dinners, cinnamon infused tequila and jalapeño infused mezcal. And big televisions.

You can find Mezcal Cantina & Grill at 1993 Hard Road.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Mezcal-Cantina-Grill/.

Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.

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