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Diner: Bowled Over

Cancun rolls a Mexican strike on the West side

By Annie McManis · August 1st, 2002 · Diner
Sometimes treasures can be found in the most unlikely places. For instance, Cancun Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, an authentic, reasonably priced Mexican joint in an unusual location -- inside the West side's legendary landmark, Western Bowl.

Although some folks were probably disappointed when the Western-themed steakhouse, Cheyenne Cattle Company, closed its doors several months ago, I'd be hard pressed to name them. (However, its adjoining bar, the Hammerhead Lounge, does hold fond memories of fake IDs and Hudy Delight on tap.) What a tremendous stroke of luck for Westsiders when Antonio Leon decided to combine the two spaces for a second Cancun Restaurant; the other is in Fairfield. Its opening in May gave locals an alternative to chain restaurants on Glenway Avenue for a sit-down meal with terrific food and bar service.

The Scene
Fortunately, the Wild West décor of Cheyenne Cattle Company blends in with the Southwest accents. Cheyenne's barrel-shaped booths and cattle horns are still here, but a new Southwestern desert landscape mural covers one wall, and Mexican music has been added. The former Hammerhead bar now serves up mean margaritas and handles overflow diners from the smoking section. Although Cancun does have a separate outside entrance, it attracts bowlers inside Western Bowl from a second entrance through the bar.

And, yes, on a busy evening, you can hear the roar and rattle of balls and pins.

Seating is not as abundant as that offered by some of the neighboring chain restaurants, but we've yet to wait more than 15 minutes for a table. (We Westsiders are slow to try new things.) Still, the place can accommodate large parties and couples with ease. We've witnessed ladies golf leagues and family birthday parties served as quickly as couples.

The Scoop
The menu is everything you could ask for in a Mexican joint: varied, inexpensive and authentic. Appetizers include homemade, creamy guacamole dip ($3.50) with salty, warm chips, and a cheesy Chicken Quesadilla ($5.75) large enough for four adults to share. Chips and salsa are delivered before your server even arrives -- and replenished without interruption -- so you're never left hungry.

Both the lunch and dinner menus include numerous combinations, ordered by number. The delicious vegetarian combo #19 is a hefty bean burrito, gooey cheese enchilada and perfectly cooked Mexican rice ($7.25). The #12 with chicken includes a spicy burrito, enchilada with red sauce, rice and creamy, flavorful refried beans ($7.25). The hands-down favorite goes to the Fajitas Mexicanas ($10.95), piping hot strips of chicken (or steak) with grilled green peppers, onions and tomatoes, served overflowing a sizzling hotplate that easily serves two. These are the real deal, with fresh vegetables, flavorful meat and steamed flour tortillas. Fajitas a La Cancun ($14.75) comes with grilled steak, shrimp and chicken -- and a box for leftovers.

The waitstaff is extremely accommodating and eager to please. Adding to the authenticity of the place is the fact that nearly all the servers are Mexican and, although the language barrier sometimes yields interesting outcomes, the food always arrives quickly and beautifully.

The Sizzle
Even if you're not hungry, Cancun is worth the trip for the margaritas. I don't know if the ratio of alcohol to margarita mix is even legal in Ohio, but the result is a fantastic, smooth drink for a great price. Even with dinner, drinks and an impressive tip, a couple can have an enjoyable evening for under $30.

Go: 6383 Glenway Ave.; Western Hills (in Western Bowl)

Call: 513-574-1639

Prices: Reasonable

Payment: All major credit cards

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.­10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.­11 p.m.; Saturday Noon­11 p.m.; Sunday Noon­10 p.m.

Red Meat Alternatives: Anything with beans; also chicken, shrimp dishes



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