13 December 2012

Local Cantina

Local Cantina operates on the Grandview strip, preparing stylized interpretations of taco truck fare paired with beer, margaritas and other cocktails. The concept is reminiscent of Big Star in Chicago - a kitschy dive bar replete with inexpensive Mexican dishes.

The decor echoes this ethos. The walls are adorned with Mexican knick knacks and mustache artwork. 

Bar patrons and tables are sated by the endless self-serve well of chips and salsa on the floor.   While bottomless tortilla chips and roasted tomatillo salsa are tempting, my inner mysophobe thinks that this could become a breeding ground for germs during flu season. Consider this a warning for hypochondriacs.

The margaritas are made in a variety of formulations. Most are very good, but the drinks with agave nectar are overly sweet and lack finesse. The beer selection is good enough to keep craft enthusiasts as well as the Miller/Bud crowd happy.

The other appetizer dips are excellent. The guacamole has a great flavor with layers of lime, garlic and cilantro. The queso looks bland, but actually has a spicy base that lingers perfectly. The bottomless chips come in handy with these appetizers.

There are two vegetarian tacos on the menu at Local Cantina. The refried beans are vegetarian, and they are the base of a soft taco that also has cheese and the typical veggies. The rajas taco is a Central Mexican classic made with roasted poblano peppers, onions, cream and spices. The tacos pick up a richness that supports the smoky peppers. 

Dessert was a deep-fried chocolate chip cookie that failed on every level. The texture was tough to the point of being inedible. 

Service was uneven on multiple visits. Orders were delivered at inexact intervals, making it seem as if courses should be ordered in steps rather than all at once. Servers were not knowledgeable about vegetarian dining options, but also did not hesitate to ask the kitchen when requested.

Local Cantina on Urbanspoon

05 December 2012


Ella has been one of the most talked-about new restaurants in central Ohio since it opened early this year. The kitchen focuses on local, sustainable ingredients, and the restaurant brings a high-end, modern dining option that was previously missing in New Albany.

While the menu is somewhat ambitious, service and execution didn't match the lofty expectations. Local sourcing is admirable, but it couldn't save most vegetarian dishes sampled. 

The kitchen does make excellent effort in cooking for dietary restrictions. Wine pairings are fun. The bar has specials on happy-hour drinks including tasty cocktails made with local spirits. 

The menu changes with the season. These courses were sampled in the past two months.

The fried green tomatoes were piled with roasted corn, red peppers and remoulade. The batter was made with corn meal, the texture was mealy and the flavor of corn was more prominent than tomato. The remoulade was bland and brought nothing to the dish. This Southern staple disappointed.

The carrot ginger soup had delightful layers of root vegetable flavor with a spicy punch. The major flaw was that the soup had a bit of a baby food texture.

The risotto, however, had a perfect texture. Unfortunately, its balance was thrown off by an overly reduced balsamic vinegar. The butternut squash ravioli looks much better.

Desserts are sometimes a little off-the-wall. Charlotte and Olivia's ice cream, made in New Albany, is available.

Service was unevenly paced. The staff answered vegetarian dining concerns capably, but then dallied taking orders. 

In an effort to bring in parents, ella offers a kid's menu for $6. 

Ella - eat local. love art. on Urbanspoon