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Cantina Los Caballitos


KatieLoeb
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Costillitas

I'm not sure these struck me as especially Mexican tasting, the tamarind glaze and pineapple salsa suggested Asia just as readily, but who cares if they're good?

There is a lot of tamarind grown in Mexico-- though I think most of it makes its way into agua de tamarindo and other drinks rather than into food.

Anyway, those ribs look great. I need to get back to El Caballito and make a dent in the menu...

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Looks delicious. What was the dipping sauce accompanying the empanadas?

Huancaino sauce. Nope, I don't know what it is either... I vaguely recall it being creamy-cheesey, but I didn't really think the empanadas even needed the sauce. The salad in the middle was good though.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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interesting.  googling huancaino turns up this recipe, which would indeed imply it's cheese, chiles, cream and turmeric.

i gotta get down there one of these days.  sounds damn good.

That's odd for a "Mexican" place. Papas a la huancaina is one of the more famous Peruvian dishes. It is indeed a spicy creamy cheese sauce served over potatoes. I think they have it on the menu at Sol del Peru.

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  • 1 month later...

i stopped in for dinner last night and had a bad experience. totally surprised me since i love Royal so much. i also know two people there that i used to work with and they both told me i should come back and have them take care of me so i'll probably do that soon. i'll definitely give them a second chance at least.

we got chips and salsa right away. i enjoyed both salsas very much. our Cadillac margarita pitcher was very good and big (though even with just the two of us splitting a pitcher we didn't feel any buzz).

we ordered some guacamole right off the bat. we took a few bites each before we decided that it had an off-flavor like bad lime juice. when mentioned it was taken away and taken off the bill.

we got the mahi mahi tacos and the pork empanadas next. both of which were mentioned above. our tacos looked the same as the ones above except no radish on the side. i think creme, radish and cabbage are all pretty traditional accompaniments but ours were just some overcooked fish cubes with cilantro that was overcooked to the point where i thought it was parsley (i couldn't taste it at all). so...fish cubes in tortillas.

the pork empanadas had a great texture (deep fryers do that!) but the filling was one-dimensional. so i tried with the salad, which made it better, and with the sauce (which made it wetter). for some reason we thought it was an almond vinaigrette, but the above description of the sauce sounds more accurate. a simple, light creamy sauce. not very flavourful to me though.

again i will definitely go back for another try. i love the atmosphere and the location and the great tequila collection is lots of fun.

--

matt o'hara

finding philly

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Sorry to hear that Matt, but I would give them another whirl, I've had pretty good luck there.

The fish tacos we had were super-juicy and very flavorful. Indeed the presentation is pretty spare, but that should be fine if the fish is good.

And I'm surprised about the empanadas, I didn't end up using much of that sauce because the filling was vibrant and tangy. It's true enough that you could probably deep-fry cocktail coasters and I'd enjoy them, but the empanada filling that I got didn't need much help from the accompaniments.

I still think I prefer the original ones by a little, but hey, things change...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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My experiences there have been mixed. I was really not happy with the first visit. I thought some of the food was mediocre at best, and our bartender seemed to be just as interested in trying out his horrible pickup lines on the clientele as he was serving food and drinks. However, that wasn't too long after they opened, so it's quite possible they were working out the kinks in the kitchen (and hopefully looking for a new bartender).

On a more recent visit, however, I really enjoyed it. There were 4 of us and we ordered a table full of food... way too much actually, but I was pretty happy with everything I sampled.

I do agree with Matt's opinion that the pitchers of margaritas seem week. We were going through it like it was Kool-aid, and I don't recall any noticeable effect.

__Jason

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I do agree with Matt's opinion that the pitchers of margaritas seem week. We were going through it like it was Kool-aid, and I don't recall any noticeable effect.

__Jason

Me too, they're very weak. You have to buy a shot to fortify them. I just stick to beer when I'm there, they have quite a few good ones on draft usually.

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Topic title has been appropriately amended.

Buy your margaritas by the glass. The pitchers are really weak.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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  • 2 months later...

Sat outside and drank a few wonderful summer cocktails, prickly pear margaritas. Our server brought us free chips and salsa (with refills) and didn't care that we weren't eating.

It was simple and perfect. I think it's going to be a great summer in South Philly.

--Alec

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Went to the Cantina on Monday afternoon after the Phillies game. $10 margarita pitchers and some food deal were in effect (the specifics were almost as forgettable as the food). I think we set a North American land record for chips consumed as they were pretty tasty. I like getting tanked on a Monday at 4pm for cheap. Not such a bad thing.

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They've changed the chef recently, and added a tequila tasting on the last Thursday of the month that I recall being quite a deal. So I've heard. I'll look into it closer to the last Thursday.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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They've changed the chef recently, and added a tequila tasting on the last Thursday of the month that I recall being quite a deal.  So I've heard.  I'll look into it closer to the last Thursday.

Mark McKinney is the chef here and at the Royal, and has been for a while.

The tequila club is a really great deal and you should come to the next one.

"..French Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Chocolate Deluxe, even Caramel sundaes is getting touched.." Ice Cream

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  • 1 month later...

Had an awesomely good meal at the Cantina tonight.

It's true, we've been dining-out with one of the owners a bit lately, but he was not with us, nobody else down there knows us, and for you jaded, suspicious cynics out there, yes, we paid for all our food!

The pork ribs were just stunning: perfectly tender with a great sweet-sticky tamarind sauce. The pineapple-jalapeno salsa is a perfect accompaniment. They had an empanada special: smoked beef with oaxacan cheese. Delicious. The guacamole that accompanied was a little odd, kind of like Matt's description upthread, just a little too sour or something. Didn't matter, the empanadas were fine without it.

They had a tilapia taco special tonight too, and these were almost comically large. Huge filets of fish were breaded and fried to a nice crisp, then just barely tucked into soft tortillas with a creamy vegetable-studded tartar sauce. They were quite tasty, just kind of overwhelming! The fish remained nice and juicy, the outside retained its crunch, the sauce had a nice tang. I think I was expecting smaller pieces of fish, which might have left room for a little more something in the taco, but that's not really a complaint.

But the main reason we came was for the Cochinito, shredded roast suckling pig, bathed in a calabaza and hominy stew. Wrap that up in a warm, soft tortilla, and its one of the most satisfying dishes in town.

This was WAY too much food for two of us, I don't know what we were thinking. Portions of most things are really quite large. We took some food home, I'm sure that pork is going to rock tomorrow.

We had a pitcher of blood orange margaritas, which were tasty, but indeed seemed a little light on the tequila as has been mentioned upthread. I was OK with that, because I was driving, but I could see how it might irritate others. We'll have to find some way to get this message to the owners...

But really, Matt, give this place another try, you really must have hit an odd off-moment. Get the ribs. Get the cochinito. Basically, eat more pork. Although the turkey mole is pretty awesome too...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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So, is it wrong to go two nights in a row? What about ordering some of the same stuff?

Go get those ribs and just try to tell me that you don't have cravings to go back the next night.

What really surprised me was that the ribs might have been overshadowed by the Goat Tacos! They were tender, juicy, a little funky, and with a drizzle of chipotle salsa they absolutely glowed.

The other shocker was the vegan fajitas. It sounds like such a sad, pale imitation of that lovely sizzle and juiciness of seared meats... But this version, a heaping mound of grilled veggies and seitan, actually looks appealing. Sadly I was too stuffed with goat and ribs and empanadas and suckling pig to cram any of this in my mouth, but it got rave reviews around the table.

Oh, and the margaritas: plenty of kick to them tonight. And they're ridiculously cheap by the pitcher.

So, see everybody there tomorrow?

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 5 weeks later...

We swung by here for lunch yesterday. In the solid tradition of 'way too much food, but so many things look good', the two of us had:

Nachos with salsa - came with the meal. Very good and should have warned me of quantities to come.

Guacamole, split between the two of us - not as good as Xochitl, but still a very good rendition. Decidedly excessive even for two...

Quesadilla con pollo - truly excellent. I particularly liked the way the chicken had been treated (braised?) before being shredded. Excellent tortilla, too.

Quesadilla vegetariana - my SO had this, of course I sampled - made with huitlacoche and other mushrooms, as good as the non-veg choice.

Drinks: I had a draught Yards - I know, it's not appropriate, but I had read about the breakup on Foobooz, my SO had a Mojito which was.. different. Sweeter than I expected.

Service in line with the place, informal but effective. Curiously, there weren't that many people there.

Very good meal - and the cochinito mentioned by Philadining sounds interesting. My only issue with the place is the location. I know, I'm a silly european.

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  • 7 months later...

bump!

I had the cochinita (pibil?) for the first time at Cantina last night, and

may I just say, that is an utterly exquisite piece of pork. It encapsulates

everything I love about a good roast pork dish, regardless of the

nationality of the cuisine/chef/pig. Good Chinese, Italian, and Mexican

roast pork should all just have that tenderness, that salt, the roasty

crispiness, the mouthfeel of the pulled pieces... oh god, it was so good. So

so so so good. I want more. I can't think of when I've had pork like that

recently. This definitely competes with Osteria for best roast pork dish in Philly.

Everything else we had -- tilapia taco special, goat tacos, roasted pineapple-avocado-mache salad, desserts, margaritas -- were all their usual tasty selves, but the cochinito was a revelation to me. I don't order enough entrees there, usually finding myself distracted by appetizers and alcohol.

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I'm finding myself totally obsessed with the Cantina's goat tacos. They've actually surpassed the Al Pastor at Taquitos de Puebla as my favorites.

The roasted pineapple and avocado salad is pretty amazing too. Take a little of that salad and put it on the goat tacos: yow, you've really got something!

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'm finding myself totally obsessed with the Cantina's goat tacos.  They've actually surpassed the Al Pastor at Taquitos de Puebla as my favorites. 

The roasted pineapple and avocado salad is pretty amazing too.  Take a little of that salad and put it on the goat tacos:  yow, you've really got something!

Wow! Really? Better than the al Pastor?? I'll have to check that out soon. The fish tacos at the Cantina have been reliably delicious whenever I've ordered tham, as well as the ceviche.

Goat tacos, eh? :hmmm:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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  • 1 year later...

Congrats to the folks at Cantina Los Caballitos for a 2009 Best of Philly from Philly Mag for Best Cheap Mexican Food.

I'm not sure that's the category I would have put them in, but it's true enough that a lot of the food is pretty affordable. The magazine's blurb even acknowledges that not everything is cheap, but I feel that even the large platters and specials are always good values.

As I've mentioned before, i know the owners of this place, and I've told them that I feel like the portions might be TOO large, but thankfully, they don't listen to me.

I've been going to their other similar place, Cantina dos Segundos, in Northern Liberties more often lately, but this is a good reminder to go back to the original sometime soon...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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As I've mentioned before, i know the owners of this place, and I've told them that I feel like the portions might be TOO large, but thankfully, they don't listen to me.

I've been going to their other similar place, Cantina dos Segundos, in Northern Liberties more often lately, but this is a good reminder to go back to the original sometime soon...

i end up at dos segundos quite a bit lately too; it's more convenient for me. the mushroom quesadilla rocks.

last time i was at the south philly cantina, i got the turkey mole, and i swear i got enough food for six. a gigantic chunk of turkey breast, and an entire drumstick and part of a thigh. if there was less than a pound and a half of meat there, i'll eat my hat. it was ridiculous. (also pretty damn good)

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As I've mentioned before, i know the owners of this place, and I've told them that I feel like the portions might be TOO large, but thankfully, they don't listen to me.

I've been going to their other similar place, Cantina dos Segundos, in Northern Liberties more often lately, but this is a good reminder to go back to the original sometime soon...

i end up at dos segundos quite a bit lately too; it's more convenient for me. the mushroom quesadilla rocks.

last time i was at the south philly cantina, i got the turkey mole, and i swear i got enough food for six. a gigantic chunk of turkey breast, and an entire drumstick and part of a thigh. if there was less than a pound and a half of meat there, i'll eat my hat. it was ridiculous. (also pretty damn good)

I was there twice in the past two weeks, including last night. Goat tacos, pork carnitas tacos, octopus, all delicious and fairly cheap. Very good margartias. The place is perfect for solid, satisfying, no hassle meal. It's great for a quick plate of something, or to hang out and drink for a while. Very clutch.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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