2017-09-27 / Restaurant of the Week

Fresco’s Cantina

Fresco’s Cantina is a welcome, breath of fresh air in the quiet, residential part of Astoria, near the water front. With the bonus of the new Ferry Service to

Manhattan and the proximity to Socrates Sculpture

Park, Fresco’s Cantina is perfectly situated to enjoy a pleasant, delicious meal here. Fresco’s Mexican-fusion cuisine borrows some flavors from Italian, Indian and Thai cuisine, though the concept is based on fine Mexican recipes.

The décor at Fresco’s Cantina is charming, with wood and stucco walls adorned with gilded mirrors that hang over comfy banquettes upholstered with fabric resembling Mexican tile motifs. The cozy bar is decked with Mexican artisan tiles and the cocktails could not be better. The façade is a garage door that slides opens to the street in pleasant weather, giving the restaurant and outdoor patio feeling.

The amiable owner, Brian Martinez, is a successful restaurateur and business man, with his popular Bronx restaurant called “Travesias.” Brian says he was “Made in the Dominican Republic, and raised in the U.S.”. He has traveled extensively in Latin America and brings back ideas and recipes for his restaurants. He is so passionate about the food served, you can taste it in every bite.

Order one of their fabulous cocktails such as a margarita or mojito made with premium spirits and flavored with house made fruit purees: passion fruit, guava, mango, pineapple, coconut, ginger and more. The classic Fiesta Margarita is mixed with silver tequila and served in mason jars with or without a salt rim. Fresco’s Mojitos are “better than Cuba’s” and in addition to the muddled mint and lime, you can add a fruit puree for extra flavor. There’s a nice selection of Mexican beers too, and drinks are on special during Happy Hour.

Starters at Fresco’s Cantina are ideal for sharing and include chunky, creamy guacamole with fresh corn chips, “esquites al fresco” which is Mexican corn on the cob taken off the cob for easy eating. “Tamal de Frida” is a unique twist on the classic tamale. Corn polenta is layered with shredded pork, chipotle mayo, mole and cotija cheese, served in a quaint enamel pan ($8). Cantina wings are popular for their crispy, juiciness, smothered in spicy sriracha barbecue sauce ($8). Split two empanadas, filled with sweet plantains and beef with onions. The Cantina 3-cheese quesadilla can be a main course for one, or shared as an appetizer. Add vegetables, chicken, steak, or shrimp to this quesadilla for a substantial main course.

Tacos, tacos, tacos! I could eat tacos every day and at Fresco’s Cantina, you could have a different taco every day for 11 days. Better still, these tacos are gluten-free, thanks to the corn tortillas they’re made with. We loved the Mahi Mahi fish taco called the “Cozumel” made with beer-battered fresh fish and topped with honey-jalapeno slaw and fresh cilantro. The Cuban al Pastor is filled with slow-roasted ‘pernil’ pork, topped with pineapple and cilantro crema. Pollo Mumbai takes on an Indian twist with Tandoori slow-cooked chicken and chipotle. The Phuket taco is made with grilled, jumbo shrimp smothered in Thai sweet chili sauce for an Asian twist. Vegans delight in the PBA taco with smashed sweet plantains, black beans, and sliced avocado or the “El Bosque” taco with peppers, onions, black beans and avocado. All tacos are priced individually, around $3.50-$4.50 each, so that you can create any combination you like. You can also incorporate any taco filling into a burrito or a bowl for an upcharge.

Big plate entrees are expertly prepared on the spot and beautifully presented on clever metal trays. I can’t say enough about the carne asada, which is a marinated, grilled skirt steak, cooked to order and cleverly served in a spiral with a skewer to hold it in place. The accompanying cilantro rice, Cuban black beans, and sweet plantains were just perfect along with the tender, juicy steak ($26). Chili-lime pan-seared salmon is a beautiful dish, served on a bed of sautéed peppers and onions. Chuletas are thick cut pork chops topped traditionally with a fried egg. Sweeten things up with Fresco’s Cantina’s unique dessert called the Mexico City. Imagine a crispy fried wrapper sprinkled with cinnamon sugar around a hunk of banana-caramel cheesecake, drizzled with dulce de leche. It’s so good, you just have to try it, or try the chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. Classic tres leches cake ends the meal nicely too, along with a Tia Maria or Kahlua liqueur.

Fresco’s Cantina serves authentic and modern Mexican cuisine with unique twists. The service is friendly, the drinks are fantastic, and the atmosphere is casual and cool. Fresco’s is a great place for a small birthday gathering of up to 20 people. Call for reservations and visit their website for gorgeous photos and information. They’re open seven days a week for dinner from 3pm to 11pm on weekdays and until midnight on weekends. Brunch is coming soon. Order to go on Seamless and Grub hub. Visit now while the doors are open, soft music and aromas fill the air. Make every day a fiesta at Fresco’s Cantina!

12-14 31st Avenue
Astoria  347.808.7338

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