Monday, November 17, 2008

Review: Steve's Cantina & Grill

Name: Steve's Cantina & Grill
Address: 401 Milton Ave, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Far West-Side (Tipperary Hill)
Cuisine: Mexican
Hours: Wednesday-Thursday 5 PM to 8 PM, Friday-Saturday 5 PM to 9 PM
Parking: On-street
Accepts credit cards: Yes

Note: I will hopefully be using a better camera for the reviews. The ol' iPhone just isn't cutting it apparently.

So the Cantina and Grill part of Steve's is hidden. And by hidden I mean you feel like you're walking into somebody's house. Don't be fooled. There are two parts to this establishment: the bar entrance located at the corner of Milton Ave and Hamilton St and the restaurant entrance which is up on a porch and feels more like it's located at a house on Hamilton St. Either entrance is fine to go in.

Walking in and it's clear that this place is quite small. Two small rooms with about 7 or 8 tables. You get the sense that you are walking into a friend's house: from the fake-wood paneling lining the entire perimeter to the circular dining room table which seats a larger group in what feels like, well, a dining room. No issues here though. The restaurant has a very homey and down-to-earth feel to it.

Steve's has a relatively small menu and a very small kitchen, but that didn't bother me at all. I found it encouraging because I assume the smaller the place, the more likely they are to serve those few dishes well.

Chips and Salsa were brought out before ordering.

The chips were OK. To be picky, I much prefer the style that are triangular cut than to the pale, circular kind. These resembled your generic store-bought brand except a bit more saltier and crunchier. The salsa was interesting. I'm almost positive that they use stewed tomatoes here for the salsa. I was a little skeptical at first, but after a few tastes it was enjoyable.

The waitress then brought some complimentary guacamole. Score!

This is how guacamole is supposed to taste and I'm so glad that I've found a place in Syracuse that does it well. And as a treat, topped with stewed tomatoes, homemade green sauce, and cilantro for garnish. So tasty. Fresh avocados too.

While ordering, I was informed by the waitress that the chef at Steve's, David Walker, also has a great vegetarian meal that he'll make upon request. By no means am I a vegetarian, but it's something that I'll have to remember for next time as I do quite like Mexican-style vegetarian dishes.

The order...

Margarita: $3.50
Bean Smothered Burrito with Red Sauce: $8.50
Total cost of meal with tax and tip: $15.84

Immediately after placing my order, a couple of SU students walked in and told the waitress that they have a group of 15 showing up. She didn't seem too happy about it and I felt sorry for not only her, but the chef as well. This isn't like Chilli's or Red Lobster where you can just waltz in unannounced with 15 people and expect that it won't be a problem, especially for such a small place like this. But the waitress and chef both seemed to manage it well given the small space and small staff. Oh, to be a clueless undergrad. I was once like you...

Pictured below is Steve's standard Margarita with Jose Cuervo and a big ol' lime slice. Served in a pint glass, this was more than enough to get me excited about my meal. Quite strong!

So. Much. Food.

The smothered burrito was good. Though, it did taste like it had been left in the oven (in order to stay warm, I assume) for a bit too long as it was a bit crunchy. Did I mention how much food was here? It was literally dripping off of my plate and onto the table.

The main entrees come with 2 sides. I chose the vegetable special (which on this day was a corn and onion mix) and beans. I regrettably do not know too much more about the vegetable side dish - corn with a couple different kinds of onions. I'm not sure what the sauce was, but it was very good: almost sweet and spicy. But I'm wondering if this side dish would have tasted a bit fresher had it been cut from corn right off the cob. Then again, it's kind of hard to do something like that in the middle of November. As for the other side dish, I was a little too overwhelmed by beans halfway through the meal (this is my own fault as I ordered a bean dish and beans as a side - a rookie mistake at this place). Roughly 3/4 of the plate was covered in beans. Next time I will be sure to change it up a bit.

Odds are that chef Walker will go up to your go up to your table afterwards and ask how your meal was. Even though he didn't stop by my table personally, I thought it was a nice gesture to give customers and I really think that more chefs should partake in doing this sort of thing after meals.

I really wanted to try the lime cheesecake for dessert but the waitress told me that they were out of it. At any rate, there was no way that my stomach would have fit it in (even though I really wanted to as it sounded delicious!).

Would I go back again? Absolutely. However, I suppose I am still looking for the best Mexican restaurant in Syracuse.

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