By KATHLEEN STEWARD
It’s hard to miss Cantina Louie. The Mexican street-food restaurant features two large, festive and grinning skulls painted on the side of the building.
The skulls are celebratory. They pay homage to “El Dia de Muerto,” or the day of the dead, when many Mexicans gather at the gravesides of deceased friends and relatives for a night of revelry.
Inside, the cantina is painted pink, green and purple: Not just any pink, but Mexican pink, as part owner and manager Miguel Marin points out.
With a seating capacity of 150 people, Marin and his staff stay busy.
Cantina Louie offers several different burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and salads, along with an entree menu for the hearty appetite. Kids can eat for $5.99, which includes a drink. The Cantina runs daily food and drink specials that will catch your eye.
The Mexican restaurant is in its third year, and is known for their authentic margaritas and specialty drinks. Beer, wine and sangria is also served.
Q&A WITH co-OWNER & MANAGER MIGUEL MARIN
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
Relaxed, bright and friendly — we are a fun, affordable restaurant where families can relax. Some of our customers come three days a week to catch our specials. The staff makes you feel welcome from the time you walk in the door until the time you leave.
What is your food philosophy?
We make everything fresh. Cantina Louie serves authentic Mexican street food, like tacos, sopes, tostados and tortes. On our tamale Sundays, we come in at 5 a.m. to make them fresh for that day. We cook our rice five times a day.
What types of cuisine do you specialize in?
Mexican street food with added specialty tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas. Our specialty drinks are second to none. For our margaritas we use Maestro Dobel tequila, gran gala and house made sour, and there is no skimping on the salt. For a different flavor combination, you can add mango, strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate or bananas to your drink.
What is your signature dish?
People love our California burrito, a flour tortilla rolled and stuffed with grilled chicken, lettuce, rice, refried beans, sour cream and guacamole topped with queso. You can also substitute chicken for steak for an additional dollar.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
That depends on how hungry you are and how adventurous your taste buds are. I’d have to say the California Burrito, or any one of our specialty tacos. Try one of our six salsas that range from mild, with the poblano pepper and tomatillo fruit, to hot, with the habanero and cayenne peppers. For an entree, try the chimichanga with beef or chicken rolled in a flour tortilla with shredded cheese and a red sauce, served with a side of rice and refried beans.
Price Range: $-$$
Location: 1900 U.S. 1 South, 32086
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday