(Last UPDATED 11/24/18) Description and review of Midtown’s Cantina Alley, an open-air Mexican bar and restaurant in Sacramento.
Cantina Alley is located in Jazz Alley (between 23rd and 24th Streets and J and K Streets). I have been there twice recently, and it is easy to see why it is such a popular spot. The open-air enclosed bar and restaurant is reminiscent of similar establishments across the border in Mexico.
Strategically placed shade sails and fans with mister’s help patrons keep comfortable during our hot Sacramento summer.
Both times I patronized Cantina Alley it was during La Hora Pachanga (Happy Hour). La Hora Pachanga is Tuesday – Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. I understand that on Friday and over the weekend (open until 2:00 a.m.) there can be a long-long wait to get in as the place is small and seating is limited.
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Unlike some other Happy Hours around town, the price of the food offerings is not reduced – but certain drinks are. For example, all canned beers are $2. For $5 during La Hora Pachanga you can get Margaritas De La Casa, a glass of red or white wine, or Sangria De Callejon. The Chupe Y Chela (Mezcal shot and a beer) is $8.
On my first visit one friend took advantage of the $2 beer – he enjoyed several during our visit. Another friend had a glass of white wine – while I sampled the Sangria De Callejon. The Sangria was just ok – I have had better at other restaurants in town.
On my most recent visit a friend and I stopped by – again during La Hora Pachanga. It was her first visit and she enjoyed the ambiance so much she decided to return the next day with her boyfriend. My friend had the house margarita – which she enjoyed. I again ordered the sangria – I guess I was hoping that this time it would better than just “ok”. Next time I go to Cantina Alley I plan to try something else.
Cantina Alley also has a number of drinks not on the La Hora Pachanga list of drinks – many of which look very intriguing and festive i.e. served in whole pineapples and personal sized watermelons, for example.
During my first visit one friend opted to try the Pozole Verde (a traditional, hominy-based stew with chicken, roasted Poblano chiles, tomatillo, cabbage, and pickled red onions) ($8). The consistency was more like a soup than a stew – but he enjoyed it and finished the bowl.
My other friend had two Baja Fish Taco’s (beer-battered fried huachinango (red snapper), house white sauce, mango avocado salsa topped with cachanilla salsa) ($4). She ordered them plain – with the mango avocado salsa on the side. Not very exciting – but she was really able to taste-test the fish.
I had heard good things about the Baja Fish Taco so I also ordered one (with everything) – as well as an Al Pastor Taco (pork marinated in a house-made spiced achiote salsa, sautéed onions and topped with a pineapple rojo salsa). ($3.25)
Both of us agreed that the Baja Fish Taco was delicious – the fish was light and flaky and, despite being deep fried, not greasy. I also enjoyed the Al Pastor Taco. Both of them were flavorful but not overly hot spice-wise.
The tacos are served on corn tortillas that were made in-house.
On my second visit my friend ordered the Chicken Tinga Tostada (chipotle marinated shredded chicken topped with avocado, lettuce and crema) ($6), while I opted for a Baja Fish Taco and a Taco Arrachera (skirt steak in a cilantro soy sauce marinade topped with salsa verde) ($3.50). We both liked what we ordered but I noted that the Baja Fish Taco definitely had more “heat” than on my first visit. The Taco Arrachera was almost – but not quite – too spicy hot. I am a wimp when it comes to spicy.
Our waitress, although busy, was attentive and the service was excellent. On my first visit to Cantina Alley I was not impressed with the service and more than a little disappointed as I was there with out-of-town friends.
We had checked out the bike rack situation at Cantina Alley and when chatting with our waitress we suggested that secure bike racks would be an asset to the business. Our waitress indicated that she would pass along that suggestion to the owners.
I had recently read an article in the Sacramento Bee that an expansion of the business was planned, and our waitress excitedly confirmed the expansion. Cantina Alley was built in what had been the backyard of a Victorian house on K Street that had been converted to a triplex rental. The house will provide an indoor seating area which will both reduce the wait time for patrons agreeable to being seated indoors, as well as providing shelter during inclement weather.
(1/19/18) On a recent visit I inquired about the progress of the previously mentioned expansion. One of the owners told me that there had been some issues related to permits. He also mentioned that they “wanted to do it right” – and anticipated completion of the project this Spring.
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(UPDATED 11/24/18) Cantina Alley Snapshot:
- 2320 Jazz Alley, Sacramento, CA 95816 (between 23rd & 24th Streets and J and K Streets)
- (916) 970-5588
- Hours: Closed Monday; Tuesday – Thursday (3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.); Friday (3:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.); Saturday (11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.); Sunday (11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.)
- Street Parking
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