La Tijuana Cantina (1003 N. Charles Street, 410-752-3333) is a funny little place. Located above the popular Mt. Vernon gay bar Grand Central, it's a separate entity from the bar downstairs (though they are owned by the same person). Furthermore, La Tijuana's two rooms each have their own very separate identities. One really is a cantina, a brightly lit, festively decorated room with Latin music playing. A mural of Mexican travel posters takes up one wall. The other room is dim and modern, with pop and club music on the sound system—more cosmo than margarita. In both rooms, however, you can order from the Tex-Mex menu. I'd been told the chef, Paul Castro, was importing some ingredients from his native Texas. Frankly, I'm not sure it's worth the trouble—the food seemed perfectly fine, but not outstanding, examples of its genre. Our favorite was the deluxe version of the nachos, a mountainous pile of chips covered with just about everything, easily enough to feed four people. During the nightly 5-to-8 p.m. happy hour, their very tasty margaritas are supersized in pint glasses. With friendly service and reasonable prices, La Tijuana has the potential to be a fun, casual neighborhood hangout—one with a room for every mood.
Tijuana’s a pleasant surprise.
Issue date: December, 2006