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THE EATBEAT: Sauces distinguish offerings at Mayville's La Cantina

MAYVILLE, N.D.--The chips arrived warm, crunchy and not too salty. The tomato sauce was just right. Not too hot. It was a good omen for the lunch four of us enjoyed recently in La Cantina, a downstairs Mexican restaurant that opened here six mont...

MAYVILLE, N.D.--The chips arrived warm, crunchy and not too salty. The tomato sauce was just right. Not too hot. It was a good omen for the lunch four of us enjoyed recently in La Cantina, a downstairs Mexican restaurant that opened here six months ago.

My Eatbeat companions were Mary Glessner (MG) and Missy Ohe (MO) from Grand Forks and Dawn Heskin (DH), who works in nearby Portland, N.D. We liked the chips. We liked the spaciousness of the restaurant. And then, we settled into the menu.

MB was pleased with the mild red sauce on the burrito she ordered with extra cheese. She does not care for hot, spicy foods. MO enjoyed the flavor of the white sauce she asked for on her enchilada. It was the same sauce I ordered on a seafood chimichanga. And DH knew she wanted the white sauce on her seafood burrito.

The sauces distinguish the food in La Cantina. They were created by Mark Petri, who operates the restaurant as well as the cafe in Buxton, N.D. He spent many hours developing the flavors.

Customers pick from four sauces, or gravies -- zesty red, original brown, chicken pepper or white Cancun sauce. While it is a Mexican restaurant, La Cantina also offers grinders served on bread that come fresh daily from Soholt Bakery.

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The menu lists quesadillas for $6.59 to $9.59 for a large chicken one. Cheese tostados are $2.49, with beef, bean or chicken ones at $2.89. A taco salad is $7.99, and a seafood salad is $8.99. Tacos are $2.19 for hard shells and $2.59 for soft shells, with three-pack baskets for $5.99 and $6.99. My chimichanga was listed as $8.59 for the small version and $9.59 for the large. It was garnished with a pleasing serving of lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.

We spent more than an hour visiting over lunch in La Cantina. It is located down a long flight of stairs in a basement with a bar (Heros and Legends), also owned by Petri and his wife, Tami. However, there are glass doors between the two establishments, and the owners have effectively blocked out the smell of smoke in the restaurant by using two separate ventilating systems. We counted seats for about 60 at tables that are far enough apart to allow private conversation. And there were groups of people arriving during the noon hour.

The restaurant has a neat, clean feel about it. There is tasteful art on the walls. You are not overwhelmed by Mexican blankets and sombreros. However, a speaker above our table made it kind of difficult to hear one another.

The service was friendly but on the slow side, with only one waitress on duty. We didn't mind the wait because we wanted to visit. And we were served chips and water when we came in.

This definitely is a place worth the drive. It has been drawing customers from nearby towns.

Tami Petri hails from North Dakota. She met Mark in Chicago. They came back three years ago, when he started operating the cafe in Buxton. She is a co-manager of Walmart in Grand Forks.

La Cantina features daily lunch specials including the small burrito (chicken, bean, ground beef or seafood) and a scoop of Mexican rice for $6.99 on Wednesdays. La Cantina also features family fun nights, when kids younger than 12 can eat for $1.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or call (701) 772-1055.

Related Topics: FOOD
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