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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    Surf Cantina in Westerly focuses on Mexican fare and cocktails

    Cantina Guacamole (Ann Baldelli/Special to The Day)

    Open since last November in a fully renovated spot that was previously occupied by other restaurants, Surf Cantina is a new and different eatery for the owners of Chapter One Food & Drink in Mystic and Guilford.

    Rather than the new American cuisine that they serve at their other places, the menu at Surf Cantina is focused on Mexican fare and cocktails.

    We visited early evening on a gorgeous Sunday so they had the big roll-up doors open, allowing fresh air and sunshine to flow in off Canal Street. When those doors are up, it’s indoor eating with all the best benefits of being outside. 

    The mantra at Surf Cantina is “Tacos + Tequila,” so we started with the Cantina Guacamole, $11, billed as fresh made to order and served with warm tortilla chips. The guacamole was tasty, on the chunky side, which we like, but topped with too many chopped jalapenos for our liking. We spooned most of them off. The chips were warm, and the serving ample.

    Another starter we shared was the Octopus & Chorizo, $15, which was interesting, in an unusual sort of way. The combination included ingredients I’ve never seen combined before — crispy octopus, chorizo, white sweet potato, and cashew salsa Macha. If you don’t know, Macha is ground powder from processed green tea leaves that is rich in antioxidants and touted for its health benefits.

    The dish was OK, but I don’t know that we would order it again, as the flavor of the octopus was masked by the Macha. And there was something about sweet potatoes and chorizo with octopus that just didn’t work for our palates, but we may be in the minority as our waitress told us it’s a popular item on the menu.

    We did enjoy the Pork Carnitas Bowl, $21, with slow-braised pork, rice and beans, Pico de Gallo, Chihuahua cheese, saffron onions, and chipotle aioli. It was a nice melody of flavors, and arrived warm. Our minor complaint was that the rice could have been steamed a bit longer, so it wasn’t so hard. But all in all, it was a good and flavorful dish.

    We also tried the Pork Belly Tacos, $17, and for $5 more, added a third taco to the plate of two. The tacos were prepared with the pork belly, pineapple salsa, fried onions, and a side of rice and beans. There was also some chopped tomato, a little bit of cheese, and cilantro. They were fine, but not over the top. They could have used more of the fillings, especially the pork belly.

    Overall, we enjoyed our time at Surf Cantina, where there is an expansive bar, booths, tables, or high-tops for seating, a pool table, and live bands or a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays, and a Sunday brunch. They did a terrific job refreshing the space that has housed several different restaurants over many decades and added another drinking and dining option to the growing list in downtown Westerly.

    Pork Belly Tacos (Ann Baldelli/Special to The Day)
    Octopus and Chorizo (Ann Baldelli/Special to The Day)
    Pork Carnitas Bowl (Ann Baldelli/Special to The Day)
    Surf Cantina (Ann Baldelli/Special to The Day)

    Surf Cantina

    15 Canal St., Westerly

    Search their name to find them on the web and social media.

    Atmosphere: One great thing about this place are the three big garage-like doors that roll up in good weather to give patrons the feel of eating outdoors right along busy Canal Street. The place has a beach vibe, with suspended and hanging surf boards, funky posters, wicker and glass light fixtures, and, the night we visited, pulsating reggae on the sound system.

    Alcohol: A full-service bar with an emphasis on specialty drinks and margaritas.

    Kitchen hours: Monday to Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 to 11, and Sunday 11 to 10. The bar stays open later.

    Prices: Tacos come two per order and range between $12 and $17, with the avocado version on the low end and the pork belly on the high end. You can add a third taco for an additional cost. House specialties include Steak & Frites for $32, Blackened Salmon, $26, and Mexican Fish & Chips $21.

    Credit cards: Yes

    Outdoor seating: When the big garage doors are up, it’s pretty much like eating outside.

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