Located in Andersonville, Cantina 1910 is a Mexican restaurant that merges the diverse cuisine of Mexico with the bounty of Midwestern farms and producers to innovate traditional Mexican dishes.
Do you like to visit restaurants when they first open, or do you like to give them some times to iron out the kinks, perfect the service and tweak their menus? Even though there is definitely an excitement to getting a table at a hot new restaurant the week it opens, I’m on Team Wait. I like to read reviews, hear feedback from friends and know what I’m getting into before I eat someplace. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’ve also been to far too many openings where I was so excited to eat amazing food at a new spot in town only to be hugely disappointed in the experience.
In the past month or so, I’ve been to two much hyped spots within weeks of their openings. At one, the food was hugely disappointing and at the other, the service was awful. Both had potential to be far better, so I wonder if had we waited longer to try each restaurant, we’d have had a better experience. Even so, I hesitate to return to either when I live in a city where there are so many amazing dining choices at arm’s reach.
Last summer, I went to Cantina 1910 (, a brand new, much-abuzz restaurant in Andersonville on Chicago’s North side. Between a preservation kitchen and 1,400 square foot rooftop farm opening soon coupled with commitment to sourcing local ingredients and a Mexican-inspired craft cocktail list, there was a lot to look forward to. I went opening night and it was underwhelming; clearly there was some work to do.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
A year, a new chef and an updated menu later, I was invited to come back in and experience Cantina 1910 2.0’s authentic Mexican food and handcrafted cocktails in all it’s modern Mexican glory. My boyfriend — Brad — and I decided to make a date night out of it and had a really, really wonderful experience that I was honestly excited to share.
Cantina 1910 has a trendy-yet-laid-back vibe with a two-story atrium at the entrance, floor to ceiling windows in the dining room, and massive light fixtures. The 180-seat restaurant has locally designed murals on the walls and farmhouse tables made with reclaimed wood in the bar area, creating a cool juxtaposition between modern and rustic decor. Past the bar area is a large dining room, flanked by a sidewalk café that, well, I’ll have to go back and sit out there in order to report back on it.
On the Thursday night we dined, there was live music playing in the bar area, which was perfect for diners inside, because it wasn’t in-your-face blaring and the noise level was perfectly moderate so that we could talk to each other — and our server — and still hear the tunes streaming in from the bar area.
The cocktail list is both curious and appealing, with four different margaritas to choose from, all of which have slight twists on the traditional margarita. The house margarita has a splash of orange juice, while the signature 1910 margarita is made with lime cordial instead of the former’s lime juice and simple syrup combination. There are also versions made with Reposado tequila and mezcal, plus nearly a dozen other classic cocktail options given a Mexican twist. If you’re with a group, you can order a #MargaritaParty — a pitcher of margaritas that serves four for $38.
I wanted to try something different but not too far outside my comfort zone, so I had a Reposado margarita which was smooth and packed a punch, and Brad went for the 1910 margarita, which was slightly sweeter and refreshing, and the Tequila Daisy, another great summer sipper with lemon, simple syrup and grenadine, which our server highly recommended as a house favorite.
Prices are super reasonable — between $8 and $12 for cocktails that most people couldn’t make at home.
Like the cocktail menu, the dinner menu at Cantina 1910 is a solid balance between inventive dishes for adventurous eaters and classic Mexican mainstays with unique twists. The menu is divided by shared plates, small plates, tacos, ceviches, and large plates, which work as entrees or to share.
For us, the standouts by far were the über fresh ceviches: marinated sea bass with blackberries, peaches, ginger, serrano peppers and a beautiful smattering of micro greens and a scallop ceviche with beautiful heirloom tomatoes and ancho chile pepper.
The tacos were also memorable, and I don’t dole out compliments to tacos lightly. The house-made corn tortillas are topped with, say, grilled fish, fermented cabbage, chayote, and red salsa, or adobo-simmered al pastor balanced with with tomatillo salsa. They come two per order — perfect for sharing — and are just the right size to enjoy as a starter or to order a few and share as the main event.
Two beautiful large plates, which we shared, were the banana leaf fish ‘n’ papas, a play on fish and chips, and roasted pork loin with a succotash of edamame and corn, all topped with apple salsa. Side dish offerings are simple, but solid for conservative palates: refried lentils, pork and beans, roasted vegetables and rice.
Desserts are nothing to laugh at here either, ranging from the simple — churros with vanilla bean crema — to more complex pastry innovations — flan with rum gel, pecan crumble and vanilla crunch.
The bottom line here? It’s fun to rush to new restaurant openings if you want to see and be seen, but if you want to ensure great food, balanced cocktails and hyper attentive service, give then some time to get their act together. And if you can’t resist the charms of opening weekend, don’t discount second chances, either.
For more information about Cantina 1910, call 773-506-1910 or visit online www.cantina–1910.com. I was invited to dine at Cantina 1910 as a guest of the restaurant, but was not compensated to write this post and all opinions here are my own.