The goods: Cinco Cantina and Tequila Bar in Coral Gables brings spicy margaritas and fresh-pounded guacamole to Merrick Park. The upscale Mexican spot is owned by Palm Beach-based restaurateur Carmine Giardini of Carmine’s Restaurant Group.
Ambience: The massive restaurant seats more than 350 and is decked out with low-rider bikes, snowflake chandeliers and high-backed, carved wood chairs. In good weather, the outdoor patio is pleasantly breezy, with pueblo-colored leather chairs and tiki torches lending a romantic vibe.
The grub: Modern Mexican cooking. Expect raucous saloon staples -- half a dozen types of margaritas, chili-dusted homemade chips, generous portions of South of the Border classics and rice and beans. Prices are moderate given the majestic setting: starters are $8-$11, enchiladas can be had for $12 and mains level off at $25.
Start off with the trio of fiery salsas and the house-made guacamole, then move on to summery salads like the mango-avocado topped with blue cheese and pumpkin seeds. Tamales include a black bean and goat cheese and a butternut squash and chipotle chicken rendition. Mains are generous and include tacos “en cazuela” served piping hot in cast iron pots. The lamb barbacoa stews tender hunks of with rice, bell peppers and pickled red onions. Taco platters present trios of soft tortillas stuffed with a choice of mahi mahi, shrimp, chicken, skirt steak or slow-roasted pork belly. Mains include roasted adobo half chicken, ancho-rubbed pork chop and a mahi mahi “yucateco” served with coconut rice wrapped in a corn husk.
Desserts veer off the Yucatan peninsula with the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a towering ice cream sandwich cake.
Verdict: This stylish Merrick Park cantina doles out standard south-of-the-border favorites with a New Mexican bent.