La Cantinita Mexican bar-restaurant opens in Levittown
La Cantinita is a vibe. Pulling up to a nondescript building on Hempstead Turnpike, you walk in, and suddenly you're in a pulsing world of Mexican street art and reggaeton music. The edges of the room are stacked with birthday and bachelorette partyers ordering bottle service, so take a seat at the bar and pause for a second to take it all in.
The ceiling is engulfed in fake flower garlands hanging alongside mini disco balls. There are TVs everywhere. Neon signs display messages (think "Trust me, you can dance. -Tequila"). Colorful portraits of Frida Kahlo and Selena line the walls, alongside graffiti murals. It's the kind of place you'd expect to have a multicolored flight of margaritas garnished with a spicy Tajín chile powder rim and a giant sparkler that shoots fire. But the kitchen at this new Levittown bar slaps. So take a look at the food, too.
The menu is big on Mexican sports bar bangers — super nachos and loaded carne asada fries, spicy wings doused in mango habanero and even mole sauce. The queso fundido ($14) arrives in a cast iron skillet with a boatload of crumbled chorizo on top, finished with chopped cilantro for a pop of color. Get those corn tortillas into the savory delicious mix quick, because the gooey cheese hardens up faster than you think.
A $23 Double Trouble burrito was definitely worth it, as it comes packed with juicy carne asada and shrimp meshed together with pinto beans and snappy guacamole. In a deft move, the burrito is seared on the flat-top, so the tortillas get toasty and the ingredients come together in a more compact experience. The fast food French fries are super satisfying, like a salty trip to the golden arches.
The menu has a few burgers, as well as full platters of saucy enchiladas and assorted meats, but get the plate of three birria tacos. They come lightly fried and dripping in chili meat oils, with a hunk of braised short ribs in each, topped with a shimmer of chopped onions. The savory consommé is equally tasty, floating with more chopped onions softened by the hot broth.
Meanwhile sipping a bubbly cantarito in its traditional clay cup, it's hard not to get Tajín all over your lips. Refreshing and fruity like a paloma, the icy drink is spiked with tequila and Squirt, rounded out with limey grapefruit juice. The earthenware jug is a kind of a plus, a nod to older days.
If you come on Thursday, cantaritos are two-for-one. But this bar seems to have a different deal every weeknight. Wednesdays it's discounted beer and wings. Tuesdays are $7.99 tacos and frozen margaritas. And every once in awhile, a mariachi band swings by and one of the employees runs around in a big bobblehead costume of world champion Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez. Like we said, there's a lot going on.
La Cantinita, 2715 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown. Open 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday; 516-862-8444, lacantinitany.com.