Hulking Chicago location of the Dallas-based chain.

Our Review

Cantina Laredo's angular glass-and-stone architecture and soaring fireplaces are certainly impressive—if a bit much for a chain that leans so heavily on the American interpretation of "Mexican" and hardly at all on the universal interpretation of "modern" (the menu proposes to be both). But what this Texas-based chain lacks in culinary sophistication it makes up for in satisfying grub. A shrimp, scallop and "fish" ceviche was delicate and balanced, further brightened by small hunks of capers and green olives. Then came the braised pork shanks, slathered in a chipotle-wine sauce whose supersmoky decadence was a divine match for the butter-soft carnitas, which easily could have fed two hungry tourists. The chile relleno was even more surprising: what initially appeared to be your typical goopy mess turned out to be a lesson in how looks can deceive. That a restaurant like this, with its overly glossy exterior and overly basic menu, could produce a dish that beneath its unassuming surface revealed such a nuanced blend of perfectly prepared ground beef, plump raisins, and toasted almonds—well, let's just say it lived up to its surroundings.

Mara Shalhoup

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Price: $$$
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa, AmEx, Discover

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