Summer.  We’re in it, we’re in it right now, eating blueberries and biking and always wearing sunglasses.  After a day of adventuring yesterday with my pals Dana and Heather, we began musing about what would be the ultimate summer meal.  What place evokes seems forever sunny?  Mexico.  We decided on Little Mexico Cantina.

Compared to the US, Canada’s Mexican population is practically nonexistent.  For the most part, we end up with places like Taco Bell and Taco del Mar as our representations of Mexican cuisine, or restaurants serving nothing but canned guacamole, nachos, and fajitas.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating more traditional Mexican food, you’ve realized that a Taco Salad in El Bowl-o is about as meaningful to Mexicans as sweet and sour pork is to the Chinese, and that the cuisine of Mexico varies greatly according to region.  All of this is to say that Little Mexico Cantina lies somewhere in between – it still caters to North American tastes, but does a much better job than most places in Canada, or at least BC.

This restaurant, right next to Garry Point Park in Steveston, has been run by the same family for 18 years.  The decor – sombreros, mayan murals and pinatas, pinatas, pinatas! – really does scream MEXICO.

We had the appetizer-sized portion of the Broken Sombrero ($7.95), the Mexican Pizza ($8.95), the Wet Burrito ($15.95), and Churros ($8.95) for dessert.  Apparently they’re famous for their cornbread, but they’d sold out just as we arrived.  We started the meal off with a refreshing pitcher of lime Margaritas on the rocks ($15.95).  The perfect drink after a long day of biking.

Just as a side note, I apologize for the less-than-stellar photos in this post.  My camera battery died, and we were left with nothing but cellphone cameras and poor light!

The Broken Sombrero was a stew-like mixture of corn tortillas, chili sauce, onions, Mexican chorizo sausage, and a “special” blend of seasonings ($7.95).  The smokey, spicy flavours were fantastic, but the presentation was a little bland.

The tortillas in it had gone soggy, and the whole mix just came piled on the plate, with no real garnish or variation in texture.  The flavours of this dish had so much potential, and it would have been nice to see it served over fresh, crunchy tortillas and topped with something colourful, like avocado.  It just needed something more.

The Mexican pizza intrigued us because of the mole sauce; mole is a dark, savoury sauce originating in the Oaxcan region of Mexico.  There are many variations, but they’re all composed of many ingredients, and some include chocolate.  Because we tend to think of chocolate as a strictly sweet item, it’s easy to forget its potential in the savoury world.  The only reason chocolate tastes sweet to us is because sugar has been added to the cocoa beans, but in their naked form they have a naturally rich, bitter flavour.

The Mexican pizza had a flour tortilla as its crust, and was topped with 3 cheeses, mole sauce, and shredded meat.  It was tasty as a snack, but we thought it needed to be much more substantial to justify the $8.95 they charge for it.

The dish to get at Little Mexico Cantina is the Wet Burrito.  It’s sort of a strange name, but the enormous, flour tortilla is swimming in a spicy sauce, and drizzled with Mexican crema.

The burrito is filled with your choice of chicken, pork, or shredded beef (we went with the latter, and it was good), cheese, beans, rice, tortilla chips, and probably many more things I’m forgetting!  They’re clearly not afraid to use chilies, because everything we ate had a serious, smokey heat to it.  Also, the guacamole was real and pure, not filled with tomatoes and onions to make it go farther.  This burrito was the size of a small boat, and far larger than one person could ever consume (yes, that is a challenge to you readers who happen to be carnivorous, eat-for-sport-types).

We finished off with the homemade churros, which are a kind of donut made by piping batter directly into hot oil.  They came rolled in cinnamon sugar with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberries.

These ones are best dipped in the vanilla ice cream, but not the chocolate sauce (it tasted canned).  They weren’t the best churros I’ve had – not quite light enough – but really, how can you not enjoy deep-fried, sugar-coated dough with ice cream?  We finished them off no problem, then rolled home in our summer sunflower-decorated steed.

Little Mexico Cantina isn’t at the level of Mexican restaurants found in the US or Mexico itself, but it goes beyond the nachos and fajitas we’ve all come to associate with “Mexican” food here in Canada.  My recommendation would be to go for the margaritas and a wet burrito, especially after a day that’s built up your appetite.  You’ll be taken care of in a friendly environment, and will NOT leave hungry.  Actually, if you’re feeling just a bit too full, you can go for a stroll around Garry Point Park.  Es perfecto!

 

Little Mexico Cantina

3131 Chatham Street, Richmond BC

604-272-5123

Some vegetarian meat options, but a meat-heavy menu.

Cash and cards accepted