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January 2020

Playful Spot in White Plains: Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar

Partners John Solo, Stefanos Katsikoumbas and their team have opened Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar on Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, in the former Black Bear space. Solo also owns and operates The Grand in Astoria, while Katsikoumbas has two other Cantinas in Harlem. Both practically grew up in the restaurant business.


John Solo, who is also an actor/producer/director with 36 movie credits to his name, will be appearing in a new series on Amazon with Al Pacino called ‘The Hunt’. It is currently in production for release in 2020.


Cantina is a playful and colorful spot.  A bright aqua pastel façade attracts along Mamaroneck Ave., and a sprawling rustic multi-level interior dining room and long bar has already become a bustling venue for spirited happy hours, snacking and networking. The friendly staff is right on it from the moment you walk in.


When we arrived at Cantina on a Friday evening, the dining room and bar were booming. Upstairs, too. Host John Solo managed to find us a high-top and we went to work. We filled the table with orders of pork, chicken & spinach & goat cheese empanadas, and a variety of tacos: vegetable, chorizo, mango-jerk chicken, and rock shrimp. Each was very tasty. Good snacking here. On a previous visit I savored their Mango-Jerk Chicken Wings, which were off the charts.

Cantina serves a bouncy menu of reasonably-priced south-of-the-border fare. Tempting starters include: plump Buffalo & Lemon Pepper Wings; Street Corn, bathed in sour cream, cotija cheese, cayenne pepper; Queso Fondido, baked Oaxaca cheese served with flour tortilla and tomatillo sauce; and Cantina Nachos with the works.  A variety of Tacos are available throughout the day including: Modelo Beer Battered Fish, Tijuana Steak, and Chicken Classico.


Fresh made salads include: Southwestern, with arugula, cotija cheese, corn, avocado, tortilla strips, cherry tomatoes, mustard & honey vinaigrette. The 7th Avenue combines baby spinach, sliced strawberries, avocado, fried goat cheese, almonds, tamarind vinaigrette. Big tasty bowls are also on hand filled with rice, onions, peppers, black beans, sliced avocado, fresh corn: with choice of Chili Lime Chicken, Pork, Spinach, Shrimp or Steak.


Main courses include: Carnitas, pork, yellow rice, black beans, plantains; Chicken Mole, served over cilantro spinach rice; Garlic Shrimp, with rice & guacamole; and Steak Fajita, with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, rice, black beans, served with warm flour tortillas.


Weekend Brunch, served noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, includes such $15 ‘Platos’ as: Avocado Toast, smashed avocado on multi-grain toast with 2 sunny side up eggs; Veggie Quesadilla with Oaxaca cheese, mushroom, spinach, onion & peppers with avocado; Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, chorizo, onions & peppers; and Strawberry and Cream French Toast, brioche dipped in a Mexican cinnamon batter, stuffed with whipped cream cheese, topped with strawberries. Tried the French Toast recently and it was really decadent! There are $3 Tacos, too. Main courses at Brunch come with complimentary Mimosa or Sangria.


Special Hint: Already popular are Cantina Happy Hours offered Monday thru Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Specially priced cocktails and appetizers are served.


Cantina Tacos & Tequila Bar is located at 166 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains. The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 3 p.m. to midnight. Saturdays & Sundays from noon. Weekend Brunch. Happy Hours. food price range: from $2.95. A la carte menu: $4 to $23. Bar/cocktails. Private party facilities. Full take-out & catering. Major credit cards. Casual dress. Municipal parking. Reservations suggested for larger groups: 914-461-3959. www.cantinany.com


(Morris Gut has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. 914-235-6591. E-mail: gutreactions@optonline.net)