Alamexo Cantina: Bye Bye Lunch, Hello Happy Hour Snacks

Alamexo Cantina in the iconic 9th and 9th district will now be open seven days a week and is adding a new “Cantina Happy Hour” menu of $4 Botanas that will be served from 3 until 6 p.m. throughout the restaurant. Each week will feature a rotating selection of small bites available a la carte in addition to the regular dinner menu.  “I’m going to serve some additional treats in the afternoon – things you’d usually find in at a bar in Mexico,” said Matt Lake, owner and executive chef.

New Operating Hours are Monday – Saturday from 3 until 10 p.m. and Sundays from 3 – 9 p.m. with the Cantina Happy Hour menu served daily from 3 – 6 p.m. “It’s a new neighborhood to us, and we listened carefully to our customers since opening,” said Susan Bouldin, operations manager. “Everyone has really embraced the Cantina and our gorgeous patio in the afternoon and evening and that’s clearly the time of day they want to enjoy the restaurant.”

The Cantina Happy Hour Menu, available from 3 – 6 p.m. in addition to the dinner menu (highlights below), will change weekly to take advantage of the freshest ingredients from local farms and ranches. Drink specials will be offered with selections changing weekly. Sample $4 Botanas offerings include:

  • Huarache Plantanos: corn and ripe plantain masa topped with refried black beans, lettuce, cabbage and cashew salsa  
  • Quesadilla con Queso y Hongos: two white corn quesadillas filled with mushrooms, jalapeño & Oaxaca cheese served with salsa verde cruda
  • Jalapeño Rellenos: pickled jalapeño filled with beef barbacoa, topped with queso fresco & crema
  • Taquitos de Pollo: crispy rolled tacos filled with adobo chicken

 

While the Cantina will not open until 3 p.m., Lake and his crew are happy to open for groups mid-day. “It’s actually the perfect answer for us because we can’t accommodate private groups in our downtown location and have a huge call for mid-day lunch meetings and events,” said Bouldin. “We can host any type of private party during the day now and offer a truly private space.”

In keeping with the traditional Mexican values and roots, Alamexo’s culinary teams source only the finest organic and natural produces for their menu. They feature Niman Ranch and Snake River Farms meats, responsible seafood and buy from local farmers in season. All their suppliers are locally owned and operated.

At both Alamexo Mexican Kitchen downtown and Alamexo Cantina in the 9th and 9th district, they offer a wide, hand-curated selection tequilas: blancos, reposados and anejos; as well as an all-new cocktail menu, mezcals, cervezas and licor.

The dinner menu will be served from 3 p.m. until closing. The Para la Masa offerings include popular selections of their classic Guacamole and Guacamole Verde con Carnitas, Queso Fundido, Cantina Nachos or Quesadilla Grande, both of the latter having options to add shredded short rib barbacoa or chicken tinga.

The Platos Principales are served with rice and beans and include the Enchiladas Suizas with roasted pulled chicken in a tomatillo cream sauce; Enchiladas Mole Poblano with pulled chicken adobo with traditional mole poblano; Carnitas con Salsa Verde with tender pork carnitas, the Jaiba y Camarones with lump crab and Gulf shrimp, Hongos y Queso with wild mushrooms and Oaxaca cheese, and the Con Queso y Aguacate with mashed avocado and melted Chihuahua cheese.

Tacos include the Pollo y Adobo with chicken in chipotle adobo, Pescado Mixtos with wild mahi mahi filet and Gulf shrimp, Barbarcoa with tres chile beef barbacoa, Al Pastor de Alamexo with braised and pulled pork, Vegetales with roasted cauliflower and seasonal vegetables and Carne Asada with adobo marinated steak.

A Cantina Salad with Romaine hearts, baby spinach, tomato, avocado and jĭcama can be made into a meal by adding adobo chicken or beef barbacoa. Lados (or sides) include Cantina favorites of Papas y Chile Molido, smashed russet potatoes, Platanos con Crema, fried ripe sweet plantains; Elotes de la Calle, Mexican street corn off the cob with lime aioli, queso fresco and chile molido or Coliflor, roasted cauliflower with chile recado.

Alamexo Cantina Remastered

Alamexo street corn
Alamexo street corn

One thing I’ve always respected about Chef Matt Lake is that he’s not afraid of change. After his first SLC restaurant, ZY, wasn’t performing up to his standards, he took one weekend to completely redecorate, rebrand, and the following Monday the city was introduced to Alamexo downtown.

Though not as dramatic a change, Chef Lake has listened to customer feedback at Alamexo Cantina, and has introduced a brand new menu. Shared plates as originally envisioned for the cantina are still available, however diners are now able to order their own entrees as well. Some classic dishes from Alamexo downtown have also found there way to the Cantina menu. And what started as one menu for both lunch and dinner has morphed into two separate menus. Those that enjoy adult beverages need not fear: Alamexo Cantina continues to offer its top-shelf selection of various tequilas as well.

On a recent visit I was able to try the larger entree portions, as well as some of the classic dishes. Queso Fundido with guajillo-marinated lobster was a rich, gooey revelation and is highly recommended (and coming in at a similar price as the guacamole, I think it’s a no-brainer which one I would choose, despite my love for a huge bowl of guac).

Queso Fundido with Lobster
Queso fundido with lobster

Fans of Alamexo downtown will be happy to see that Chef Lake’s famous Enchiladas Suizas are now on the cantina menu. These are my go-to enchiladas, and they never disappoint. I also tasted the Enchiladas Jaiba y Camarones (enchiladas with lump crab and gulf shrimp, baked in a roasted habanero cream sauce). Rich, sweet, and spicy, these delightful enchiladas hit all of the right notes. I had a hard time choosing between the seafood enchiladas and the Mole Poblano enchiladas. Mole Poblano is my all-time favorite mole due to the sweet, rich, chocolately notes. I had the server bring me out a small taste of the mole Poblano, and I would suggest it for only the biggest spicy fanatics out there. It was a bit past my comfort level.

Enchiladas with lump crab and gulf shrimp
Enchiladas with lump crab and gulf shrimp

Some of the other classic cantina side dishes remain. The street corn, cut from the cob and covered in lime aioli, queso fresco, and chile molido, remains one of my favorite dishes. And the Platanos con Crema remains on the menu as well, although the new versions are large chunks of plantain that are then fried, as opposed to the old “crab cake” style plantains from the old menu, which were diced up and formed into patties, then fried. I preferred the old style, but plantain lovers will really enjoy the new version as well.

Plantains
Plantains with cream

In celebration of the new menu, and for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration, Chef Lake is rolling out a few specials for Cinco de Mayo. Both Alamexo Cantina and Alamexo downtown will feature carnitas tacos with salsa verde, avocado, and jalapeno escabeche. Another special menu item will be enchiladas enfrijolatas with achiote chicken and asparagus. Both locations will also feature a special drink menu, including one named Medicina Botanica: Espolon reposado, ginger agave, lemon, and a Wahaka mezcal float.

In the mood to win a free dinner to Alamexo Cantina? I’m giving away $100 for the cantina (drinks and gratuity are not included) to celebrate the new menu, and to celebrate SLCeats reaching 1,000 followers on Instagram. All you have to do? Go to the SLCeats Instagram page and leave a comment on the giveaway post. That’s it! I’ll pick one commenter at random and the $100 is yours!

 

Disclaimer: $100 gift card provided by Alamexo Cantina. I was an invited guest to try the new menu.

Brunch at Fireside on Regent Begins June 3rd

Fireside on Regent is off to a solid start, and now that they have their feet under them, Chef Richey is opening for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30-2pm beginning June 3rd. Richey is no brunch novice, having previously expanded Pago’s menu to include brunch as well. Expect to see French toast, croque madam, burgers, hash, salads, and special brunch-only pizzas on the menu.

Fireside on Regent
126 South Regent Street, Salt Lake City

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“Slice of Ice” Iceberg lettuce, sundered tomato aioli, “landshark” ham, poached egg, chives

 

Desert Edge Brewpub

 

We’ve all either lived this story personally, or seen it played out on the TV or movie screen: two siblings, one flashy, flamboyant, loud and exciting, and the other stable, staid, quiet and, well, at times not so exciting. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

The Salt Lake dining news tends to be dominated by sibling #1: new restaurants, tons of money put into stunning design, the flash, glitz and glamour of new, new, new.

But sibling #2 is the bedrock to the SLC dining scene. The Camry to our Teslas. These restaurants tend to be steady in their menu approach and not very interested in causing too many waves with their regulars via wholesale changes in menus or approach.

One of those dining mainstays in Salt Lake is Desert Edge Brewery, located in the upper level of Trolley Square. Desert Edge is owned by the same group that owns the Red Butte Cafe, Stella Grill, and Martine, and the pub has been around in one form or another since 1972, expanding into a full craft brewery in 1995.

The restaurant’s menu offers a wide selection. I remarked to my wife that this is a great place to bring family or large groups because everybody is bound to find something on the menu that interests their taste buds. For appetizers, you will find everything from bruschetta, crab cakes, and nachos, to spring rolls and asian chicken skewers. There is a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches, with the guajillo chile pulled pork sandwich and the grilled sirloin and gorgonzola sandwich both catching my eye. Sometimes when a menu covers that much ground, execution tends to suffer, but that isn’t the case at Desert Edge, according to my recent visit.

Those interested in salads can choose from a wide range, from the basic chef to an asian salmon salad, featuring a peanut-plum vinaigrette. On a recent visit I tried the crab cakes and avocado salad ($10.95), which were executed well, with just the right amount of spice.

Pasta salads are featured prominently on the menu, with their pasta made in-house (except the farfalle). These salads are accompanied by light and tasty house-made focaccia. The house “everyday” salad, featuring zucchini, yellow squash, feta, olives, and tomatoes, didn’t blow me away, but was a decent rendition.

The restaurant has recently rolled out a new rotating specials menu. They have given creative control over to their head chef, who sets a two week menu that features ingredients that are more seasonal in nature. Right now as we enter the cold winter their specials feature deliciously rich balsamic braised short ribs with a tarragon demi sauce ($16.95), an italian meatloaf with onion demi sauce, and a spicy pasta dish featuring chicken and spicy italian sausage ($11.95).

Of course, there is plenty of selection when it comes to alcohol. Pilsners, hefeweizens, pale ales, and stouts are all on offer. Many of these can be found as a nitro version, and some are available cask-aged as well. The brewery crafts their beers to be a bit more aggressive in terms of hops, but they try to maintain an appropriate balance for the many different styles of brews. There is also much deeper wine selection than is typically available at brew pubs, with Desert Edge offering a selection of cabernet, malbec, merlot, syrah, and a nice selection of whites (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, rose) as well. The servers know their stuff, so ask them and they will be happy to guide you in the right direction.

Prices, especially for the rotating menu specials, are beyond reasonable, in my opinion. I’m not sure where else you could find an herb-rubbed new york steak in a red-wine shallot pan sauce for $17.

We have been guided by the belief that we can do it our way, break some of the rules and give our customers a great experience. We are a ‘regulars’ establishment. We provide excellent food value by design. No corporate operation could sustain our high food costs. We just don’t have to answer to the bean counters, so we don’t. -Desert Edge website

I was struck by the high quality of ingredients, the care that went into the preparation and presentation of the food, the breadth of the menu, and the prices. In a day and age where the flashy, brash sibling gets all of the attention, sometimes it’s nice to get to know the low-key counterpart. Desert Edge may be low-key when it comes to marketing budget, but is definitely not low-key when it comes to food.

Located in Trolley Square, 551 S 600 E, Salt Lake City. (801) 521-8917.

Kitchen hours Monday through Thursday, 11am to 11pm; Saturday 11:30am to 11pm; Sunday 12pm to 10pm.

Disclaimer: I was treated to a complimentary dinner by Desert Edge in order to try their new rotating specials menu.