Let the fiesta begin; one of Windsor’s favourite Mexican restaurants has finally reopened.
The Grand Cantina, a fixture in Ford City for nearly five years, has recently relocated to the historic Strathacona Building in the heart of Walkerville, at the corner of Wyandotte Street East and Devonshire.
After a three month hiatus, the team has settled into their new digs and hit the ground running; slinging their popular selection of tacos, tequila, and more seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions; happiness, exhaustion, excitement,” says co-owner John Alvarez. “Every day, we look up from what we’re doing and the restaurant is just full. All day long. It’s been amazing and of course, very busy.”
“We were so excited to bring Cantina back,” echoes co-owner Rosemary Woods. “We were closed for a fair stretch of time and we had a lot of regulars who were definitely missing us and having some cravings while we were off.”
Woods says the original plan was to open as soon as the Ford City location closed after Cinco de Mayo, but like so many others in the industry, they experienced delays and material shortages that pushed the reopen date back much later than anticipated.
“We were kind of in a waiting game and had to take a deep breath and say, ‘It’ll happen when it happens,’” she shares. “It actually worked out well though because it really gave us some time to work on some new menu ideas.”
Woods assures their loyal clientele that the original Cantina favourites are still on the menu (duck fat fries and all), but shares they’ve also been able to add a few new items thanks to a new, larger kitchen and prep area.
“Our kitchen is actually substantially bigger and our dining area is nearly double what it was,” she continues. “We were also able to purchase additional pieces of kitchen equipment that we didn’t have at the previous Cantina, so we were able to play around a bit and add some things.”
New items include dinner plates like flank steak and al pastor skewers, served with rice and beans. There is also a new chorizo meatball appetizer, as well as a new spiced chocolate pudding dessert.
“The menu for Cantina was always very standard; people come back because they had a great experience: they love that taco, that margarita, and they want to have it again,” explains Alvarez. “We definitely kept that same consistency, but we did hire a new chef who created some new items for us and they went over really well when we did the tastings.”
Alvarez says he’s happy with how the updated menu has been received, noting there’s really something on it for everyone.
“The flank steak entrée is really good; probably one of my favourites at the moment,” he adds. “Of course, our taco selection has remained the same, and a lot of people don’t know this but we actually have a really great burger. It’s a sleeper item but it’s just so awesome; a classic smash burger made with fresh, local beef.”
The team is also thrilled with the design of the new space and is excited to show off a new yet familiar look.
“I kind of think of it like Cantina growing up,” says Woods of the new space’s design. “In any business, you have to do a bit of a facelift to stay current, so this was a good opportunity to update our aesthetics a bit.”
“It’s still very much Art Deco like the original location and has a lot of nuances of the old space, but it’s also fresh,” agrees Alvarez. “I love that we’re still right on the corner; our new sign looks so cool lit up at night with everyone sitting by the windows.”
While Woods and Alvarez share it was a difficult decision to leave their original home on Drouillard Road, they both agree it was the perfect time to begin the next chapter of Cantina. Alvarez says they’ve been excited to welcome back some familiar faces, but have also noticed quite a few first time diners in their new home.
“It’s been great to see our regulars, but we’re also seeing people bring in their friends and family to check us out for the first time,” says Alvarez. “We’ve had a lot of other business owners come in as well to welcome us which has been really nice.”