July 6, 2008

Javelina Cantina

by Angele Sionna

671 Hwy 179, Sedona, AZ
Hillside Shopping Center
Menu at: javelinacantina.com

The Food
(taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)

>>>>>= always great, unique, and flavorful no matter where you're from

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxxxx= you'll love it

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$$= $15

Value (what you get for your money)
**** = worth it - you won’t be disappointed with what you get for your money

The best Mexican food I’ve had in Arizona... that about sums up Sedona’s Javelina Cantina in one sentence. Located south of the “Y” on Highway 179 in the upscale Hillside Shopping Center, this restaurant is welcoming as soon as you walk in the door. The décor is modern southwest with stone and metal used heavily throughout. It really reflects the city’s chic artsy atmosphere. Large windows let patrons enjoy the famous Sedona scenery without the heat. But the best spot to sit is on the patio, which features a relaxing red rock waterfall and a great view of the city.

This was our first visit to Javelina Cantina. We heard it was the best in town and had won several awards so we were anxious to try it. That kind of reputation can get just about anyone in the door – but would it live up to the hype? I’m glad to report – YES!

Javelina Cantina serves Sonoran-style Mexican food. The prices are above average for Mexican dishes, but about in line with most places in Sedona, averaging about $15 per entrée. There are 15 different combo meals, which are perfect for sampling some of everything. I really liked the variety of combos. They’re not just your typical taco and enchilada choices, though those were options. And as you would expect in Sedona, they have a vegetarian combo as well. The menu also includes several types of salads, fajitas, and Javelina Chef Specials, featuring three signature dishes: Rocky Point Fish Tacos ($15.50), Salmon Tostada ($17.95), and Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Burrito ($14.95). For the junior javelinas, there’s a kids menu with eight different child-sized entrees with a soda and dessert for $6.50.

We met up with family for our Javelina Cantina debut, so we got to try several different things in this one visit. First things first - we ordered chile con queso ($7.95) and guacamole ($7.50) for appetizers. The queso was chunkier than most places with lots of green chiles, but very creamy and good. The menu says the guacamole is made fresh daily and it tastes like it. It was tangy and rich, almost creamy… full of flavor without being overwhelmingly spicy. You can tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant by their guac, so I knew we were in for a treat when the entrees came. And boy was I right!

For the main course, I had the South of the Border Combo Uno ($14.95), one of Javelina Cantina’s signature meals. It comes with one cheese enchilada, one green corn tamale, and one taco plus rice and beans. The enchiladas were, simply said, awesome. A tortilla filled with hot cheeses topped with a flavorful tomato-based sauce with just enough kick but not spicy. Also, thankfully, they weren’t greasy like too many other Mexican restaurants. The tamale was about twice the side of typical tamales. It was covered with melted cheese and served without a husk. It was nice to have a vegetarian tamale. Too often you don’t get much variety in this dish. The masa was thick with a corn, cheese and green chile center. Again, full of flavor but not spicy. I’m thinking that must be a trait of Sonoran-style Mexican food, which I’ve honestly never heard of before eating here. The chicken taco was my least favorite part of my combo but still decent. It was filled with super-thinly shredded chicken but a little dry and bland in comparison to the other items. I added some of the guac we had for an appetizer and it really improved it. My dad opted for beef tacos on his combo and thought they were much better than the chicken ones.

My husband ordered the Steak Fajitas ($17.95). They were perfect for one, but probably not enough to share like at other places. The steak was marinated and grilled with onions, tomatoes, and red peppers. The juices all ran together making a savory sauce. The meat itself was very tender and far above your average fajita meat. The fajitas come with warm flour tortillas, guacamole, and a special spicy sour crème sauce that they call crème fraiche. Javelina Cantina also serves chicken ($17.95), shrimp ($18.95), Tilapia white fish ($17.95), or garden vegetable ($14.95) fajitas.

Not to be overlooked are Javelina Cantina’s margaritas. What Mexican restaurant meal would be complete with one of these! This cantina is not messing around with their margarita menu. It has at least ten different varieties… from a standard frozen concoction ($6.50) to a Green Monster ($8.00), which is a standard margarita with a Midori float, to a Fiesta Titanic ($12.75), which has a mixture of mango and prickly pear margaritas with Midori and Blue Curacao added.

Service at Javelina Cantina is as good as the food. Our waiter was very attentive and friendly. We never felt rushed even though we ate and lingered for about two hours. Speaking of friendly, other members of the wait staff doted on my daughter who was enjoying looking behind the curtain at the bus boy station. They offered her some M&Ms, which she loved. Another thing she loved, Jave and Lina the javelinas mounted on the wall near the bar and the Arizona gift shop at the front of the restaurant. They have all kinds of souvenirs from Arizona wild animal hand puppets to books on Sedona’s famous vortex sites.

Javelina Cantina is definitely my new favorite place to eat in Sedona. (There's another one in Lake Hacasu City too if you're in that part of Arizona.) It is certainly a contender for the top spot in all of northern Arizona, but I may seem to lean slightly towards Flagstaff’s Beaver Street Brewery for that honor. Either way, the Javelina is the best place for Mexican in this whole area. You do pay more for the food here, but everyone in our party today agreed – it is worth it!

**TIP: For 10% off your total bill at Javelina Cantina and other Sedona restaurants, stop by the tourist information center in the Dairy Queen parking lot just north of town on Highway 89 in Oak Creek Canyon. You can find all sorts of coupons and other info about the area.

More Javelina Cantina photos HERE.


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