I got a fleeting impression that the adobo-spiced chicken that filled the enchiladas suizas was brightly flavored, but the salsa verde and crema that topped — make that engulfed — the fluted tortillas quickly smothered that sensation. "The Austin" — adobo chicken (or for a few dollars more, pork or steak) stuffed inside a flour tortilla, which is then flash-fried — was a similar casualty, swamped by a viscous avalanche of cheese sauce and guacamole.

Service ranged from brusque to inept. On one visit a modest crowd had servers frantically waving across the room to customers waiting to be seated, a gesture that either meant, "I'll seat you as soon as I can," or "Help!" Several patrons got so thirsty awaiting drink refills that they brought their empty glasses to the bar. On another visit the bar was so backed up that it took fifteen minutes to fill a request for a beer and a simple cocktail. Said cocktail, made of tequila, simple syrup and lemon-lime soda and dubbed "Pablo's Paloma," tasted pretty good, as did the house margarita. The beer list includes the expected Mexican brews, selections from Cathedral Square and A-B's Natural Light.

I can think of several reactions one might have upon sighting Natty Light at a stateside cantina. One might cock a cynical eyebrow and chalk it up to the Walmart-ization of American culture. One might sigh ruefully and order a Corona, unaware that both brews are owned by the same company.

La Grange Salad is romaine lettuce, mangoes, pico de gallo and roasted corn with an avocado ranch dressing and tortilla strips.
Jennifer Silverberg
La Grange Salad is romaine lettuce, mangoes, pico de gallo and roasted corn with an avocado ranch dressing and tortilla strips.

Location Info

Map

Diablitos Cantina

3761 Laclede Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Details

Diablitos Cantina
Tacos al pastor...$9
Enchiladas suizas...$9
"The Austin"...$10
3761 Laclede Avenue; 314-644-4430.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. (Bar open till 1:30 a.m. daily.)

Me? I prefer to view it as a positive sign. It demonstrates that at some level, Diablitos is attuned to its target demographic. We are, after all, on a college campus.

There's a lot more to a well-conceived restaurant, of course, than one low-end beer. And if Diablitos is ever to rise above the densely populated chips-and-salsa scrum, the kitchen still has a ways to go. Why would we need a street-vendor-themed restaurant when we have actual street vendors, not to mention trucks and taquerias?

And for those who seek the simple pleasure of chips and salsa, there are plenty of places where the chips are in abundance, the salsa's decent, and both are free.

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