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Cantina 1910 (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Mexican Uptown
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The sprawling all-day Andersonville restaurant delivers an elegant, personal take on Mexican cuisine.

For a space so massive, Cantina 1910 is serving some of the most personal, interesting Mexican food in Chicago. Chef Diana Davila’s food is comforting (esquites, corn in brown butter with halloumi, epazote and dried limes), unexpected (frita de bacalao, fried smelts with caramelized Brussels sprouts atop a slick of huitlacoche mayo) and just plain good (masa dumplings with spaghetti squash, tiny green tomatoes and edible flowers). 

The Andersonville restaurant has two floors and a rooftop garden slated to open in 2016. Once it does, some of the mostly local ingredients will come from there. It’s something to look forward to, though much already sets the restaurant apart. Like breakfast—Cantina 1910 is open all day and has a pastry walk-up window. And drinks—Michael Fawthrop (Aviary) delivers terrific cocktails, like the Chicago Manhattan, local FEW Bourbon, Rhine Hall apple brandy and CH amaro mixed with vermouth. With apple flavors and plenty of spice notes, it’s wonderfully autumnal and served in a Chicago flag-stickered bottle. 

The menu features bites, small plates, tacos and entrees. The esquites are bites, while the frita de bacalao is a small plate, but both are sizable starters. Tacos come two to an order, and the calabaza is almost meaty, with rajas and squash topped with pea shoots and sunchoke crisps. Quibbles feel minor—overstuffed tacos are a fork-and-knife dish (though a double tortilla would help). The fried dough on the desserts—a churro on the chocolate de la tierra and sopapillas—is slightly heavy, though accompaniments like honey goat cheese and melted dark chocolate with the sopapillas end the meal wonderfully.

Vitals

Atmosphere: Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the space on two sides, so you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action in Andersonville. Long wooden tables, metal chairs and hanging lights give the restaurant an industrial feel. And by day, it’s an airy place to spend some time working over Counter Culture coffee. 

What to eat: Masa dumplings, esquites, frita de bacalao. The huge cemita, a Mexican sandwich with al pastor, chicken milanesa, head cheese, cheese, beans and avocado piled into a sesame seed bun, gives the versions at Cemitas Puebla a run for their money. 

What to drink: There’s a solid beer list with both Mexican and local beers, while excellent cocktails range from $8-$13. I loved the Rosario, a trio of Rosita cocktails, each made with a different agave spirit—Milagro Reposado Tequila, Cielo Rojo Bacanora and Vida Mezcal. While I’ve had the three spirits previously, I’ve never tried three variations of the same cocktail side-by-side. The Rosita is basically a tequila negroni, and each of the three versions was perfectly balanced but completely different—the mezcal added gentle smoke, while the bacanora was dry with an earthy edge and my favorite of the three. Dr. Boyfriend, FEW Bourbon with Averna, grapefruit and grape jam, is bright and fruity, and a good way to start the evening. Some Aviary-style trappings appear, like tea dry ice that wafts over Jacko’s Ponche, as well.

Where to sit: Downstairs, the bar area has a few tables, while the large back room is a mix of communal seating and private tables. Upstairs, there’s more seating with more private tables.

Details

Address: 5025 N Clark St
Chicago

Transport: El stop: Red to Argyle. Bus: 22.
Contact:
Opening hours: Breakfast and lunch daily 7am-3pm. Dinner Sun-Thu 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 5-11pm. Bar open 10pm-2am (3am on Saturday).
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