Cheap Eats 2012: Mexican



Cantina's house salad is a less than obvious choice

kc kratt

 

Cantina Loco - House salad ($6)

Cantina Loco, the Fresh-Mex joint opened by chef Mike Andrzejewski (SeaBar, Mike A at Hotel Lafayette) last year, is easily one of Buffalo’s hottest new restaurants. Packed to the gills most of the time, this Allentown restaurant’s menu is made up entirely of tasty eats that can be had on the cheap, with the uppermost portion of the menu reaching $12, which is a song for a skirt steak dressed in chimichurri and served with rice and beans.
Carnitas, fish tacos, and the chorizo burger could easily be at home here in these listings, so it might surprise you to learn that my favorite Loco value is located at the opening of the menu, hiding beneath the staggering spicy nachos heaped with pork and poblano cream. It is in fact, the undersold and underestimated House Salad. Nearly a meal in itself, I would have overlooked this rare beauty had a Cantina waitress not recommended it to me on an early visit. A salad anyone could appreciate, this bowlful of love is made up of fresh lettuce, chopped tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco, crispy tortilla strips, and black beans, but what makes it truly delicious and satisfying is the inclusion of hominy and the vivacious but not overpowering herb lime dressing. I love a good salad, so even given the temptation of a Koreatown taco, I opt for this cheap and beautiful salad more often than not.—Christa Glennie Seychew

Cantina Loco, 191 Allen St., Buffalo, 716-551-0160

Cantina Loco on Urbanspoon

 

La Galera - Chile Verde Special La Casa ($9)

Among the serial message boarders of restaurant reviewing sites, no other local restaurant seems to incite the “authenticity” debate the way La Galera does. On its website, La Galera claims to be Niagara County’s sole bastion of “truly authentic, mouth-watering, Mexican cuisine.” But is this true? For what it’s worth, a friend of mine who grew up in Texas says La Galera’s food is pretty damn close to the food she knew as “Mexican” back home. But I’m not sure the answer even matters because the food at La Galera, however you categorize it, is always fresh and delicious. One of my favorite dishes on the menu likely blurs the line between what you would find at a roadside cart in some border town and what has been Northernized for us Yankees. The Chile Verde Special La Casa, a plate consisting of two beef tip burritos, smothered first in chile verde, and then again in the house queso, has earned a spot in my regular rotation of cheap, go-to comfort dishes. The beef is tender and satisfying, while the chile verde—fresh, vibrant, and full of heat—provides a perfect counterpoint to the silky cheese. Is it authentic? I’m not sure. But is it mouth watering? Absolutely.—James Walkowiak

La Galera, 6621 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls, 716-283-4274

La Galera Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

The Coyote Cafe - Flautas ($13)

You are greeted with a boisterous “Hola!” upon entering Hamburg’s Coyote Café, and the greeter, a diminutive hostess who always wears a smile, is charming. So is the restaurant itself, a large, friendly place that has become a village institution. Along with my wife and in-laws (not to mention my guacamole-gaga son, who emerges from a visit to the Coyote looking like a toddler-size Incredible Hulk), I’ve tried much of the menu over the years, and a personal favorite is the flautas, three rolled-up hard shells with chicken and cheese, guac, chile con queso, and sour cream. (I’m weird, so I opt for no cheese or sour cream.) Spicy, thanks to the tasty chile con queso, but not overpowering, and with a satisfying crispness, these ring up at the top of our Cheap Eats budget at $13, but they also come with two sides, the finest being the sopa (a.k.a. Mexican spaghetti) and Mexican potatoes. I have never emerged from Coyote without tomorrow’s lunch, so you’re looking at two or more meals for the price of one. There are many other picks, some a bit more expensive, but note the $5 daily lunch specials listed online. The menu, the salsa, and the vibe make the the Coyote Café a true destination. Hola, indeed.—Christopher Schobert

The Coyote Café, 36 Main St., Hamburg,716-649-1837

Coyote Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Other options in this category include: Lloyd Taco Trucks, Mighty Taco, Lone Star, and Woody's Beach Club and Taqueria (seasonal)

 

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