By Brittany Anas / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) Beloved Denver chef Dana Rodriguez brings Mexico City street food to the LoHi neighborhood with her newest restaurant Cantina Loca.
Opening Jan. 12, Cantina Loca, 2890 Zuni St., has a menu loaded with tasty snacks that transport diners to Mexico’s capital city. (Think: Crispy pork rinds served with salsa borracha, which is a “drunken salsa” spiked with Rodriguez’s very own small-batch Dona Loca mezcal).
Street tacos, a few larger plates like a red chile chicken dish, as well as sweet treats such as churros and horchata are also on the cantina’s menu.
Cantina Loca a ‘dream’ for Rodriguez
For Rodriguez, a three-time James Beard semi-finalist, 2022 is shaping up to be a busy year.
She’s also partnered with “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to become the executive chef at Casa Bonita. She’s also the chef and owner/partner of RiNo restaurants Work & Class and Super Mega Bien.
Cantina Loca, though, is Rodriguez’s first solo project and she says it’s a “dream.”
“It’s the ultimate representation of Mexican culture through food and drink, in an atmosphere that feels like a true Mexico City cantina,” Rodriguez says.
To nail the Mexico City vibe, Rodriguez enlisted designers of Denver-based Fin Art. The 2,300- square-foot space has exposed brick, Mexican cinder block walls, custom clay lighting crafted from Mezcal tasting cups and muraled walls.
An artistic rendition of a lavender tree is an Instagram-worthy centerpiece in the cantina, which is a nod to the live trees that are often rooted in Mexico City restaurants, Rodriguez says.
Come summer, Rodriguez plans to sell to-go tacos from the patio, which she expects to be a hit with neighborhood brewery-goers.
Dishes and drinks to try at Cantina Loca
Here are five must-try dishes and drinks at Cantina Loca:
1. Nopales Fritos
The Fritangas (or snacks) section of the menu include Nopales Fritos, which are strips of cactus fried in a charcoal tempura, then drizzled with chipotle aioli.
2. Queso Fundido
Dunk chips in bubbling queso topped with pico de gallo. Cheese lovers will also want to order the doraditos, with cheese potatoes, lemon cabbage salad and spicy avocado sauce.
Mix and match street tacos like the $4.50 Al Pastor taco made with Colorado lamb and adobo and pineapple or the beef barbacoa with dry spices.
4. Vincent Man-Gogh
The restaurant’s signature cocktail is this mango-forward tequila drink with red chili and lime.
5. New Old Oaxacan
Made with Rodriguez’s Doña Loca Espadín, this cocktail has Mexican cane sugar, bitters and a lemon twist. The cantina also has a tasting room for agave spirits lovers.