Restaurant Spotlight: El Cantarito Bar & Grill

Cantarito Cocktail
Cantarito Cocktail
Chunky guacamole is a house specialty
Chunky guacamole is a house specialty
The vibrant bar turns out inventive cocktails, like the Cantarito Cocktail and the Rainbow Paradise.
The vibrant bar turns out inventive cocktails, like the Cantarito Cocktail and the Rainbow Paradise.
The Rainbow Paradise cocktail layers blue curacao liqueur, rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine syrup.
The Rainbow Paradise cocktail layers blue curacao liqueur, rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine syrup.

Downtown Fuquay’s newest multistory building features an anchor tenant that’s drawing big crowds for lunch and dinner. El Cantarito Bar & Grill serves quality Mexican cuisine in a modern environment and is situated in the lower level of The Q, a mixed-use development.

“Our cuisine is a bit more traditional than you’ll find elsewhere,” says soft-spoken managing partner Oscar Arellano, who formerly worked with popular restaurant chain Fiesta Mexicana. “We offer a good variety of dishes, so there’s something for everyone.”

A quick perusal of the El Cantarito menu reveals distinctive offerings from among the appetizers, soups, entrees, and special selections.

A wall of hanging plants creates a lush dining room.

Start your meal with a bowl of lime-tinged guacamole Mexicano brimming with chunks of fresh avocado, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Or spice things up with some chori-queso cheese dip filled with chorizo sausage.

Among the available hearty soups, you can’t go wrong with either the Mexican chicken or tortilla varieties, both of which contain chicken, pico de gallo, and avocado.

When it comes to entrees, consider the Camarones Yucatan featuring grilled shrimp crowned with green and red peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. It’s served alongside rice, salad, and flour tortillas. Another tempting main course is the chilaquiles, consisting of corn tortilla casserole with chicken or beef tips, queso fresco, and diner’s choice of red or green sauce.

Menu staples like quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas are well represented, but we especially recommend the savory, chicken-filled Cantarito enchiladas with red, green, and cheese sauce. In the mood for tacos? Treat yourself to a trio of street tacos comprising soft corn tortillas filled with your choice of carne asada, grilled chicken, carnitas (braised pork), al pastor (marinated pork), chorizo, or birria.

Among the half dozen available sizzling fajitas, order the exceptional Cantarito’s fajitas involving steak, chicken, and chorizo suffused with pineapple, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes slathered with melted shredded cheese.

“There’s spice because of the chorizo, but there’s also sweetness from the pineapple,” says Arellano with a smile. “It’s a great combination of flavors.”

El Cantarito’s menu overflows with traditional mexican favorites, like the Cantarito enchiladas, seen here, street tacos, fajitas, and much more.

Vegetarian combo meals offer the choice of fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, and more with fillings like cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and potatoes and include rice and beans.

If you manage to save room for dessert, try the honey-infused sopapillas, a cheesecake chimichanga, or the traditional flan with fresh fruit.

As for beverages, sip either the popular house margarita, a blackberry mojito, or a Rainbow Paradise made with Blue Curacao liqueur, rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine syrup. Or choose a house sangria, wine, or draft beer including local, domestic, and imported.

The restaurant’s eye-catching interior features a soothing dark green, gray, and black color palette. An entire wall near the back of the dining room showcases assorted hanging plants. Tufted banquettes provide comfortable seating for guests.

“My wife helped a lot with the décor,” Arellano divulges, adding that his father-in-law made the striking stone fountain behind the bar. Service at El Cantarito is accommodating and efficient.

“Our staff work really hard and do a great job in the kitchen and out front,” Arellano says. He also is grateful for the support the restaurant has received in its first few months of business.

“Not only have the regular guests embraced us, but other downtown restaurant owners have come in and shown their support to us as well,” he adds.

El Cantarito is a full-service restaurant open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive early to avoid a long wait.

155 S. Main St., Fuquay-Varina
(919) 285-3781

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