Jennifer Fog Eats RVA: Margaritas Cantina

Published: October 4, 2012, 12:45 am ET
Collegian Food Critic

What do University of Richmond students do when their parents can’t make it down for parents weekend? If you’re Jennifer Fog, you invite one of your roommates from your study abroad time in Italy to come visit. Parents weekend is all about reunion, and after a year and a half of not seeing my friend, I didn’t miss out on the experience. Our Saturday night dinner was ideally going to be at Havana 59, but after walking through crowds at Richmond’s Italian Street Festival (ironic, right?) and making it to the door, we found out that our wait would be more than two hours. Hungry, and with a hankering for margaritas, we settled on Margaritas Cantina on N. 18th Street.

An aggressively friendly waiter ushered us into the restaurant and ended up being an entertainment throughout the meal. The sparkly sombreros hanging on the wall and the colorful dancing skeletons painted on brick were lively, but certainly didn’t distract us from the fact that we were two of about eight patrons at nearly 8 p.m. on a Saturday.

We decided to be courageous and march forth, and we both ordered margaritas. For $8, the Tropical Sunrise Margarita was 16 ounces of sugary goodness, although a little weak in the alcohol department. Sipping our drinks and perusing the menu (which had your regular tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and the like), I asked the waiter if I could start with the black bean soup. He discouraged me from ordering this, saying there were much better options.

I’m usually skeptical of a restaurant’s quality when a waiter tells me not to order something, but the complimentary chips and salsa were so good I decided to take a chance. I took the waiter’s recommendation and got Sofia’s “Famous” Sizzling Fajitas ($15). The wait time was almost nonexistent, and I soon had a sizzling skillet of pork, peppers, and onions and a side dish of tortillas, lettuce and adorable taco shell bowls filled with rice and refried beans.

Despite the appealing presentation, Sofia failed to impress me. The pork was tender, but lacked any interesting flavor. I found myself piling on the rice and beans to entice my palette, but they were lacking as well. The tortillas were tiny and insufficient for my purposes. My friend ordered the Holy Guacamole tacos ($11), and while the guacamole and pico de gallo were delicious, for me they were the only saving graces of a largely boring meal.

Margaritas Cantina satiated my hunger but didn’t leave me wanting more. Giving it only a 6/10, I wouldn’t rush back. Margaritas Cantina is a convenient and adequate option when your first choice doesn’t pan out, but “adequate” is as far as I would go in praise. If you’re craving chips and salsa and maybe a Dos Equis, this is your place; otherwise, I would pull out the smartphone and look for another place to dine.

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