Restaurant News & Reviews

Chando’s Cantina will bring regional dishes from Mexico to the urban grid

Lisandro “Chando” Madrigal operates three taco outlets in the area.
Lisandro “Chando” Madrigal operates three taco outlets in the area. Sacramento Bee file

With a mix of Mexican regional street food, an expansive cocktail menu and hours that stretch into the wee hours, Chando’s Cantina is poised to launch Saturday at 805 15th St.

This will be the first Chando’s on the midtown/downtown grid, and the new concept represents a major departure from the four popular Chando’s Tacos in the area.

Chando’s Cantina will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon Saturday and will open with menu samples available to the general public. The restaurant and bar will close Sunday, then open for regular hours beginning Monday. From Sunday to Wednesday, Chando’s Cantina will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.

While Chando’s Tacos highlights Tijuana-style tacos, burritos and other casual fare, the new location, officially called Chando’s Cantina y Gastronomia Callejera, will showcase street food from regions throughout Mexico. The menu was still undergoing final touches Friday, but expect a variety of dishes not widely seen in the Sacramento area, said owner Lisandro “Chando” Madrigal.

“Most of the products will be made with handmade tortillas and we will be cooking everything from scratch,” Madrigal said. “It will be traditional-style cooking. I’m not down with fusion, so my thing is keeping the integrity of Mexican cuisine and making sure we make everything with fresh ingredients.”

A draft of the menu suggests authentic and creative takes on chalupas, mulitas, gorditas and a Mexico City dish called pambazo – rustic bread dipped in enchilada mole sauce, then seared and loaded with chorizo, lettuce, queso fresco and a choice of meat.

One dish that’s sure to get a lot of attention from the outset – and maybe cause more than a few double-takes – will be supersized chicken wings, or alitas ahumadas.

“When I was coming up with the menu, I was sitting back and thinking bar food, cantina food. I was thinking, ‘What’s a bar without chicken wings?’ ” Madrigal said with a laugh. “But chicken wings aren’t Mexican.”

Turns out, the wings will be smoked, then fried, and the Mexican part of the flavor experience will come via the three house sauces – poblano, mole rojo and mezcal avocado lime.

The hours are also sure to create a stir. Chando’s Cantina is hoping to lure crowds looking to wind down or chow down after the bars close.

“One of the things that bothers me when we go out is that once the bars close there really isn’t anything that is super-good to eat after hours. The idea is to get people to come to the cantina after the bars close,” he said.

Madrigal’s wife, Karla, was in charge of interior design. The hotly anticipated restaurant and bar has already sparked the curiosity of one high-profile neighbor who strolled in during a friends-and-family menu testing. Madrigal said he quickly welcomed the couple – Gov. Jerry Brown and wife Anne Gust Brown – and welcomed them to stay for the tasting. They stayed for 90 minutes, he said.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob