Have you noticed the complete transformation
at the northeast corner of Elmwood and Allen? Steel's posts on St. Louis
could not have come at a better time. The windows on this corner are, once again, alive with activity and come spring a longtime dead patio will reawaken with the sounds of conversation and, God-willing, low-key live music (please no anti-urban crusades). The interior of Cantina Loco looks just as amazing, with Edison bulbs dangling above the Day of the Dead bar top and seating for what looks to be around 75 people (including the bar). The surprisingly barren walls emphasize the subdued paints and wall textures - much better than having a tickety-tackety western motif. The tattooed bar staff dons black Cantina Loco shirts, which adds to the zest of the place and compliments the Ed Hardy-esque designs on the bar. But there is something that I find even more appealing, and that
is the composition of the crowd.
Cantina Loco has managed to pique the interest of hipsters and families alike. The night that we stopped in to grab a bite to eat, it was standing room only, and the place was packed with young and old, t-shirts and ties... everyone appeared comfortable and happy. The sound of acid jazz permeated the room while people ate and drank while observing others as they came and went throughout the evening. I had heard that the service had been slow on previous nights, mainly due to the high traffic volumes combined with the 'green' procedures. That's why I was stunned when our meal began to arrive mere moments after placing the order (at the bar). I can tell you that the size of the plates were much larger than what we had been served during the restaurant's take-out phase. As a matter of fact, I could have called it quits after eating half of the cheese and veggie quesadilla. The 'snack' was served at the perfect temperature, and was a big hit. Not too messy, but still moist and delicious with the added jalapenos. Do yourself a favor and order the homemade side of quacamole, as it enhanced the flavors of the quesadilla nicely. Although I did not try it, the buzz going around the restaurant was all about the Koreatown tacos - my friend ordered it and described it as being "A savory barbecue served in a wrap." He also ordered, and loved, the enchiladas that arrived in an authentic presentation of corn tortillas.
Although the nachos were not made in-house, they were fresh. The salsa had a nice kick to it. I couldn't finish my taco, as it was much bigger than I expected (combined with the 'snack'). By the time that we had finished a couple of Negra Modelo beers and our meals, I was more than happy to get up and give our seats to other hungry customers. The atmosphere, the food and the beers contributed to a stellar evening in Allentown, and one that I plan on repeating often.
In the past, we have talked about this corner as being one of the most walkable corners in Buffalo. Others have said that the corner is cursed because there is a lack of parking. What I saw this week reassured my convictions that if all of the ingredients to make a great restaurant are added, customers will come out of the woodwork to support it, even if they have to carpool or walk a few blocks. That means that the former Sweet Tooth storefront across the street should be prime to land another killer business (see post
). Already this corner has been transformed into an uber-urban setting, and one that will hopefully lend credence to all of the aspects that are attributed to why so many of us love city living. This is a big boost for Allentown.
191 Allen Street
Buffalo, NY 14201-1515