Fresh Take: Cantina 1511

The restaurant has a new outlook—and more changes on the way



Carnitas 1511: Pork shanks with a sweet-and-savory glaze over fresh, pickled vegetables

PETER TAYLOR

A year and a half after Frank Scibelli’s FS Food Group sold Cantina 1511, the restaurant still hums with birthday celebrations and the frequent sizzle of fajitas in skillets. The Mexican restaurant—a favorite since its first location opened on East Boulevard nearly a decade ago—is now owned and managed by South Africa-based Quantum Development, creator of the Mugg & Bean, a coffee-themed restaurant chain.

With new ownership frequently comes new leadership, but executive chef Vincent Giancarlo, who’s been with the restaurant for more than four years, is still in place. Under his leadership, Cantina has steadily focused on freshening up the menu, which hadn’t strayed much from Scibelli’s original concept. Recent diners might notice an increased focus on cuisine inspired by Mexico’s many regional specialties—and upgraded presentations on the ubiquitous (albeit delicious) standards such as tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. Longtime favorites including the shrimp and jalapeño bacon-stuffed Marco Polo taco remain. The menu is rounded out by additions like the Guadalajara, with masa-battered scallops and shrimp, and the Pato Carnitas, filled with duck carnitas, pickled onions, avocado, and jalapeño tomatillo salsa. Each dish is $7.35 for one taco and sides; additional tacos are $3.50. The menu will get a seasonal update twice a year, the latest of which was rolled out last month. 

A new daily bar menu offers street-food-inspired Mexican fare. Not keen on sitting at the bar? A few items usually make their way onto the hot sampler ($9.95) platter. On a recent weekend night, the sampler included dulce de leche-glazed plantains; fries topped with cheese and brisket (a sort of Mexican version of poutine); fall-off-the-bone pork shanks topped with a dense, citrusy glaze; and finger-sized sections of a wild-mushroom quesadilla. Also new: a broad selection of tortas and two Mexican-inspired burgers (available at lunch only). Deftly handled oven-roasted blood orange duck breast ($16.45) served with a fresh Valencia orange salsa is a must-try, as is the pan-seared diver scallops and shrimp dish ($18.95), served over an elote-inspired corn salad.

And there are more changes to come in the next year. The East Boulevard location will get a complete renovation from VisionBuilders and Design, including new flooring, light fixtures, furniture, reupholstered booths, and a brighter, more contemporary feel. There’s talk of adding a fresh-tortilla-making station that would be visible from the dining room. A renovation of the StoneCrest location will follow, along with a third Cantina location in Charlotte and a fourth in South Carolina.

Even without the cosmetic updates, though, Cantina’s new outlook and fresh presentation of this varied and versatile cuisine—that has a tendency to be one-note in less-skilled hands—is a welcome infusion of enthusiasm and talent into the city’s Mexican food scene.

More »Related Stories

Mountain Cabin Cuisine: Stone Mountain Grill

This restauant offers familiar cuisine in a warm atmosphere

Baku Brings New Flavors to SouthPark

A trendy and traditional take on Japanese cuisine

Uptown Gets Fresh, New Bakery

Bread pudding is a standout at Fourth Ward Bread Co.

Elizabeth Avenue Eats

The blocks between Hawthorne Ave. and Charlottetowne Ave. are poised to become a new foodie favorite

We invite your responses and discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, profanity, commercial promotion, or non sequiturs.

Add your comment:

Newsletters

Stay up-to-date on all things Charlotte by siging up for our newsletters. Learn more by clicking here.

Newsletter Sign Up
Email*
 

Blogs »


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

At Home on the Road: Asheville Farmers Market

About two hours from Charlotte, Asheville is a convenient day or weekend drive

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

Triple C to add cans, expand by January 2015

3C IPA and Golden Boy Blonde will be first cans to hit shelves

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

Opera Carolina Moves to Elizabeth Neighborhood & This Weekend in Charlotte

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Local Chef Honored

Bruce Moffett, of the Moffett Restaurant Group, was recently honored by JWU

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

The Independent Voter Mystery

A panel of experts tries to solve the riddle of the unaffiliated voter. Like everyone else, they come up empty.

Comments