Cantina Laredo - Service With Style

A friend and I were recently invited to dine at Cantina Laredo in the St Johns Town Center. I had been a few times before, but not recently. On this occasion we were guests of the General Manager, and we were treated to a feast for the senses. I'll share a few of the highlights of this visit with you - and I hope you'll plan to see for yourself how they do the things they do! 

Happily, I was first to arrive, and since there was a space at the bar, it seemed like a great plan to start our culinary adventure there. Margaritas are an art form at Cantina Laredo. I began with a signature drink - The Casa Rita - a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila, Cointreau  and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices, which rolled up in a giant glass for just $8.00. Heavenly.

If you're not a fan of the Margarita, try one of their mojitos, or sip some wine - they have a lovely selection by the glass or bottle. Slip into a top shelf Tequila, or go for one of their Mexican beers.

While I'm on about the drinks - a warning - this bar usually gets crowded with patrons waiting for their seats, so if you like the chips, dips, and 'Ritas scene, come early and camp out. When my friend arrived we were seated immediately and treated to a lovely meal, but I will confess up front, next time, my visit will begin and end at the bar. That's just how I roll.

Bring on the Queso Laredo, baby! Warm and cheesy, garnished with taco meat and pico de gallo - $9.29.

A freshmade salsa duet comes standard with the Chips and Dip - one warm, one cold. Warning - there is actual FLAVOR in these! So much so that we scarfed down something like three bowls of chips before the night was through. Definitely a hit.

This brings me to another point about Cantina Laredo. They seem to have figured out that we dine with ALL our senses. Taste has to be spot on, sure, but there's a lot more going on here than how something tastes.

The texture of their Top Shelf Guacamole can be experienced only after you watch your server transform fresh avocado, onion, tomato and lime - at tableside - into this luscious, creamy, chunky dip. They say it serves two or four for $9.99. Don't worry, if you can't finish it, take the rest home and mix it into some scrambled eggs the next morning. Heaven!

While we were perusing the menu deciding on our main course, a sizzling, steaming plate passed our cozy booth and was served to the folks next to us. The scent of warm butter, cinnamon, and apples filled my senses and - for just a moment - transported me back in time to my great grandma's house in Missouri - hanging out with her in the warm kitchen, waiting for the pies to bake and cool. That fiesta for the senses was their MEXICAN APPLE PIE - Sizzled in Mexican Brandy Butter and topped with your choice of cinnamon or vanilla ice cream - $6.79 - a small price to be transported into a happy place!

I soon snapped back and selected my main course. Wanting to sample it all - I chose the CANTINA LAREDO PLATTER - Oaxaca cheese chile relleno, tamale, chicken enchilada, fajita beef taco al carbon  - $17.79. While it was festive to look at, and some of the pieces were tasty, I was a little dissapointed in my selection. It's not that the platter was bad, it was just a bit bland, and seemed to have been assembled on the plate, each item perfectly rolled and decoratively sauced. And at the end of the day, that's a lot of tortilla, cornmeal, stuffed with little bits of beef and chicken.

Instead, I recommend one of the grilled meat selections - they have an awesome sounding CASCABEL RIBEYE *16 oz. Certified Angus Beef cowboy cut bone-in ribeye aged 21 days then basted with Cascabel marinade for $25.99. or the PESCADO del Dia - grilled fish of the day (market price). They have some nice-sounding chicken and shrimp options too. Word up - leave the stuffed, rolled and folded items to any of the awesome taquerias in town. They do it better and cheaper. Still, if enchiladas or tacos are your thing, they've got quite a selection.

My dining partner ordered the evening's special,  a variation on the CARNE ASADA - Grilled steak with marinated onions and chimichurri sauce, tomato, peppers, and was pleased with her choice. She ate half and took the rest home for a perfect midnight snack or accompaniment to eggs in the morning.

About now we needed some liquid refreshment, and the establishment brought us a couple of their faves. The MILAGRO BLACKBERRY SMASH- Milagro Silver, lime and mint, muddled with blackberries and agave nectar - $11.75 was a smash hit with me. Again, transported. Blackberries send me back to a time in my youth when we were frequent visitors to Knott's Berry Farm. Only this time, my favorite berry soda had some real kick to it!

Then there was this concoction - a Margarita with a corona sidecar - what the??? LOL. We had a few sips, but we were puzzled by why anyone would want to mix beer and Margarita. My friend, who has been traveling extensively in Texas lately, tells me these are quite the hit there. Her take on it is that it's an attempt to get men to order Margaritas without feeling less macho. She may be on to something, but the baby-bottle of beer would seem to negate the effect. I think Corona was trying to horn in on Margarita sales, and invented this crazy beer-holder-ring, and the rest was history. This drink cannot fade into history soon enough for me. Sorry. I like my corona ice cold with lime wedge, not diluted in my Margarita. Still, something interesting to look at - and it turned heads entering the room.

With the memory of that steaming, sweet apple pie still fresh in my mind, we moved on to the Postres. Since we were stuffed to the gills already with chips, salsa, dips, main course and drinks, we decided to share one MEXICAN BROWNIE - served with pecans and walnuts on a sizzling skillet with Mexican Brandy Butter and vanilla (or you can choose cinnamon) ice cream - $6.99. Smells like the best ever brownies baking.

Our hosts insisted we try one of their signature coffee drinks - also made tableside - the name and particulars I have forgotten, but the spectacle of them making it was something else - they pull up a tray FULL of liquors, coffee and toppings, and they do all but whip the cream at your table. Liquors are poured, then set aflame, with cinnamon tossed in to send blue sparks flying through the air while the server whirls the glass around for all to see. It was like enjoying our own private fireworks at the end of the meal! Seriously, if you like to be the center of attention a little bit when you go out, ask for that Mexican Coffee concoction they make at the table. It was so good, too. Drank every drop.

Wow - looking back on it - that was a lot of food and drink for two people! MUCHAS GRACIAS to our hosts for a lovely evening - great service - good food - and all the little touches that set Cantina Laredo apart from the crowd.

Try it for yourselves - if you've been for dinner already, maybe hit up their Sunday Brunch next time, or go for drinks and dips, or go all in Texas Hold'em style! Take los niƱos along - they've got a special menu complete with activities for keeping little ones busy between courses.

AND - if you go today (Sept 2, 2012) or tomorrow (Sept 3, 2012) you can shave three bucks off that Casa Rita with this coupon! Ole!

Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon
Cantina Laredo
10282 Bistro Drive  JacksonvilleFL 32246
(904) 997-6110


I will always disclose when I have received free food or swag, but I will not allow said gift to color my opinion or reporting of the food and experience. I attempt to share in plain terms what I do and don't like, and if I like it, I will urge you to try a place for yourself and form your own opinions. I'm not a trained chef or expert in any food related field, I just appreciate the social and cultural aspects of good food and dining experiences, and I enjoy sharing them with you through my blog. Thanks for reading!


  1. Again, a wonderful and honest review. My friend has been dying to check out Cantina Laredo, but when she mentioned it's at the Town Center, I just kinda cringe at the thought of going to eat at a Town Center. Mostly the crowds though. However, your review of their drinks may have changed my mind. I really would like to try their blackberry smash & see if it's really as delicious as you've described it. Also, I have to try a Mojito!

  2. We eat at Cantina Laredo at least once a week! We love, love, love that place! We have tried all sorts of things there, but my fave would be the chicken enchilada's, the chicken fajita's or any one of their salads! We almost always splurge on the Apple Pie dessert as well! Too hard to pass up!
    I'm not a fan of margarita's however, if you ask them to make an Avocado Margarita, they will and it's refreshing and delicious! My husband and I first had one in Asheville, NC and fell in love! I would totally recommend this place to everyone! Enjoy!


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