Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Cantina Mayahuel: Happy Hour, After Hour, After Hour
Unobtrusively perched on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, Cantina Mayahuel has what just might be the longest happy hour I've ever seen: Tuesday through Friday from 12-6. Those are some seriously happy hours. Can you even call it happy hour at that point? I don't know.
What I do know, is that the cantina serves up $5 margaritas and $6 street taco plates during that extended period on weekday afternoons. The margaritas, which contain organic lime juice and agave nectar, orange liquor, and tequila are humble affairs. Served in rocks glasses and unadorned save a salted rim, the drinks come with a choice of reposado or blanco tequila and they pack a pretty ferocious punch. I found the simple composition of Cantina Mayahuel's margaritas showcased the flavor of the spirits.
The street tacos can come with sirloin steak, chicken, or carnitas and the meats cannot be mixed and matched. An order of the steak tacos was perfectly reasonable, effectively costing $2 per taco, and the food matched the margarita nicely. Much like the cocktail, the little tacos were unpretentious but good. The meat had a deep flavor of char from the grill, although it was a bit on the chewy side and the pieces had been cut large. They had cheese, cabbage, crema, and a splash of hot sauce on top.
A big part of Cantina Mayahuel's charm is in its decor. The somewhat dusky interior has the feel of a rustic saloon with its rough-hewn tables and bar. It's a place to get out of the sunlight. Out back, a spacious patio is partly covered in a way that lets in just the right amount of afternoon sky. The two spaces are somewhat opposed to each other, which only serves to heighten the cantina's overall character.
When that endless happy hour eventually winds down, as it sadly must, Cantina Mayahuel does offer a broader menu of tacos, tortas, salads, and daily specials. There are also plenty of draft beers, wines, and fine tequilas to try.
2934 Adams Avenue
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