5 de Mayo seems like the perfect day to speak about my favorite pseudo-Mexican restaurant, Cantina Grill, seeing as this day is a pseudo-Mexican holiday anyway. All jokes aside, just like St. Patrick’s Day, Americans use this particular day to indulge in large amounts of alcohol what they believe to be ethnic food. In reality, May 5 is meant to commemorate “The Battle of Puebla” along with Mexican culture and heritage, but instead, it is just an excuse people use to party.
Still, I am not one to turn a blind eye to fusion food and appreciate it for what it is, and Cantina Grill is the best place in Miami to get just this type of cuisine. Fusion Mexican is a type of cuisine born from the American tendency to fuse our cultures with those of other people. Just like the name suggests, this cuisine was born in the United States and represents what many believe to be the best elements of American and Mexican food. The creation leads to what may be the ultimate personification of the American diet— the mission style burrito. This burrito is distinguished by the inclusion of ingredients not typical in your truly authentic Mexican burrito. While Mexican burritos contain just beans and meat encased in a flour tortilla, mission style burritos contain rice, salsa, sour cream, meat, beans, cheese, sauces, guacamole, and sometimes even fries. The end product can be as immense and tasty as it sounds, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to get a mission style burrito that is grand in more ways than just the size. Just like every other food, it is all about balance, freshness, and the quality of ingredients used, and Cantina Grill nails every single one of these aspects.
The thing that sets Cantina Grill apart from its competition is the fact that it makes its tortillas to order. It’s actually quite impressive to witness. You walk up to the counter, ask for the type of flour you want, and watch as the employee takes a ball of dough and immediately presses it into a tortilla more than 12 inches in diameter. Five seconds later, the employee is constructing your burrito asking you what you want a-la-Subway. As mentioned previously, the ingredients are always of high quality and fresh, leading to a superior product. The burrito is then placed in a tray with a mound of hot from the fryer tortilla chips for you to dip in with the copious amounts of homemade salsa at the bar available at the back. Although it costs a dollar extra, you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t get a side of queso, which is their viscous and sharp cheese sauce served piping hot. This sauce spicy, warm, gooey, and indulging, making me believe that I would eat anything that was smothered in it. Luckily, I have a huge pile of chips to eat it with instead.
The burrito itself is the size of a newborn baby and somehow, I always eat the whole thing in one sitting. It is wrapped in aluminum foil and is still warm from how fresh the tortilla is when you get it. The just-made tortilla is pliable and stretchy, creating a chew that will make you become a snob and sneer at a burrito made from tortillas coming from a bag. All the meats that Cantina Grill offers are well prepared, but I go with the lime-marinated chicken or succulent steak. They also offer braised pork and fish, but I have found both to be less flavorful and bland. On the other hand, the chicken and steak are somewhat reminiscent of the Mexican food they try to recreate and provide a more satisfactory experience.
Cantina Grill does serve other American takes on Mexican cuisine, but I cannot see myself getting something besides the burrito. Out of all the chains and restaurants offering this on their menu, I have not found one that even comes close. The prices may be a few dollars more expensive than the competition, but you truly get what you pay for.
10471 N Kendall Dr, Miami, FL 33176
14713 SW 42nd St, Miami, FL 33185
15465 SW 137th Ave Miami, FL 33176
By food blogger, Santiago Cardona