June, 2004: Cactus Cantina

By: Thomas Head

These popular Tex-Mex restaurants have the same owners and, except for some Latin American dishes at Lauriol Plaza, the same menus. Lauriol Plaza is a phenomenon: At dinner time on weekdays, and from opening to closing on weekends, the place is packed with a young crowd drawn by the beer and margaritas, the outdoor seating on the sidewalk and top-floor deck, and the inexpensive Tex-Mex fare.

Plates of enchiladas, tacos, chiles rellenos, and combination platters are the most popular items on the menu, and they are a cut above those found in the run of Mexican-Salvadoran restaurants in this area. The best eating on the menus is found among the grilled specialities, all cooked over mesquite wood and charcoal. Tacos al Carbon and Fajitas al Carbon, filled with either beef or chicken, are the best in town. Grilled quail are terrific. Grilled shrimp, never dry, are very good. These are available on combination platters, and any one of the platters, perhaps preceded by a single tamale, will give you more than enough for a meal.