Hidden within the oasis of commerce that is Polaris Fashion Place, Cantina Laredo is a fine-dining restaurant that offers more than most one-size-fits-all Mexican outposts.
Columbus has longed for a high-end Mexican restaurant since the demise of Tapatio. Although Cantina Laredo is not that level of restaurant, it definitely features flavorful fare in a well-appointed environment that rises far above the mundane level of the competition.
Cantina Laredo is a chain, but the quality of the food does not suffer because of these pedestrian roots. The Polaris location is the first in the state of Ohio.
The calling card of Cantina Laredo is the tableside guacamole. A popular dish in the Southwest and in large cities for many years, Cantina Laredo is the one of the first places to my knowledge in Columbus to feature tableside guac.
The guacamole is made with fresh avocados, lime juice, tomato, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro. The portion is supposed to serve two to four, but one hungry person could probably devour the whole dish.
Like much of the menu at the restaurant, the flavor of the guacamole is great, but at $9, the price is a little steep. If the prices don't scare you, the food is great. Just be prepared to spend twice what you spend at the everyday Mexican chain eatery.
My entree was the portabella enchiladas. Made with chunks of portabella mushroom augmented with vegetables and goat cheese in a chipotle mushroom sauce, it is an explosion of flavor. The side dish, a jicama and mango salad, is a bright contrast to the earthy enchiladas.
There are many vegetarian options on the menu. Vegetarian choices include queso dip, cranberry pecan salad, fajitas and spinach enchiladas. I was also told that many of the other enchiladas could be prepared vegetarian if they were ordered that way.
Cantina Laredo's bar obviously specializes in margaritas, available in a variety of flavors. They have a decent selection of premium tequilas, including super-premium options from Don Julio, Jose Cuervo and Herradura. Cantina Laredo also has a limited selection of wine and beer.