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Cantina Tortilla Grill

2901 Second Ave. South, in the Martin Biscuit building at Pepper Place downtown, 323-6980
6801 Cahaba Valley Road (Ala. 119, near U.S. Hwy. 280, Greystone area), 408-4110
No reservations. Full bar. Indoor and outside dining; can be noisy. Order at a register at the bar, and your food is brought to your table. Inside or outside dining. Tacos served in soft flour tortillas (corn upon request) include fish, pork carnitas, carne asada (steak) and vegetarian. Also sandwiches such as Cuban sandwich, Gaucho steak sandwich; and "big plates" including Churrasco steak, grilled salmon, cilantro chicken.

Reader Comments (19)

This place has been a great success since it opened. With a great menu that differs from the typical mexican-american fare including daily specials, an authentic latin atmosphere, and outdoor seating...Cantina has all the tickets.

You order at the counter and seat yourself...the weather determines whether or not finding a table will be a challenge. They have a great selection of mexican beers, including Sol which is one of my personal favorites. The chips and salsa are a great way to start, and they have excellent queso dip, with generous portion. My favorite dish is the fish sandwich with fries. They have two types of fries, a garlic fries or what I think are sweet potatoe fries...personally, I think the garlic ones are better. The cilantro chicken and salmon fillet are also pretty good too.

My one complaint, that really annoys me, is that when you order water to drink...they wont give you a cup of water. Seriously! No, you HAVE to pay for bottled water...and it is a small bottle to boot. If there is one thing I hate, its being nickle and dimed. So, bring your own water, and enjoy the food.

October 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbg

I agree with the above poster about the water. It's preposterous that you have to purchase bottled water. But I must disagree with "bg" about the atmosphere & food. The ricketty metal chairs are uncomfortable and wobble too much. Perhaps it's a ploy to turn tables quicker? You definitely don't want to linger if you lose the lottery and come up with one of those chairs. The sweet potato fries were more like strings and fairly tasteless except for the burned bits. The fish taco was too light on the fish AND the cilantro AND the sour cream. It was just okay. The chips, salsa & guacamole were quite tastey though.

October 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

Great margaritas. Good tacos. Delicious garlic fries. The chipotle salsa is to die for. Service is kind of awful at night, but I went once for lunch and got great service.

November 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMari

I think this place is awful. I flat out refuse to go there when friends suggest it. Drinks are expensive; food is nothing special; and the atmosphere, like the food, is bland.

November 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCam

Last Friday the guy taking the order was rude. The food for folks at our table did not come out at the same time.--- about 20 minutes apart. The food was nothing special. The small glass of wine was overpriced. The chairs were wobbly. The policy of not serving tap water is ridiculous. I have dined all over the country in very fine places, and never been refused a glass of tap water. Will certainly never go there again, and I suspect the place will be for rent soon.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I rencently visited Cantina on a Saturday night, along with my boyfriend and another couple. Upon arrival, we were disappointed to find that over half of the indoor seating was "reserved" for a private party. As the first commenter stated, seating can be a challenge, as there is not much room indoors. This particular evening was slightly chilly, but we decided to put on our jackets and find a table on the patio.

The girl working the register seemed more than a little distracted. When we ordered a bucket of beers (advertised on a chalkboard-type sign next to the bar), she informed us that they "don't do buckets." We pointed out the sign and she responded that they could put them in a bucket with ice, but each beer would be priced individually. Ok, no problem. We just wanted to avoid walking back inside and waiting again at the bar. There was also some confusion when we explained we would be seated at the same table as the couple who ordered directly in front of us. They had gotten a number for the table and we wanted our food to arrive at the same time.

Our food arrived quickly, although not at the same time as our dining companions. However, it was delicious enough to overshadow the minor annoyances of a confused cashier and insufficient seating. The fresh guacamole rivals any homemade I've tasted. My "big plate" entree of shrimp quesadillas was both ample and flavorful. My boyfriend decided on tacos (pork carnita and carne asada) and enjoyed them both. Overall, I'd say this is a good place for a casual meal but not outstanding enough for a special trip to Pepper Place.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCat

I'm pretty surprised by some of the negative comments. I do agree with the water policy, and being a regular customer of the Cantina, both lunch and dinner, I asked about the policy one night and the answer really did make sense.

The answer was something like this:

It isn't about them making money off of bottled water. He explained that the place just gets so busy at times, and considering they don't have "waitstaff" so to speak, there would be so many people coming up for refills (they only have one size cup, the Cantina cup) and it would just get to be too much. They gladly offer a glass of water if you are drinking alcohol, because that wouldn't be the only beverage and you'd probably be moreso only sipping on that, meaning a refill would be unlikely.

That's all I can remember about the conversation, as it was a couple of years ago, but it was something to that effect. All that he said made sense though as far as their reasons are concerned.

But I still go to the Cantina a LOT. At least 4-6 times per month. The food is NOT bland (Who said that? Are you kidding me??) by any means. I haven't had everything because I tend to get stuck on the same stuff, but I think I could honestly say that I've tried at least half of the menu, and everything that I did try was unbelievably tasty. And whoever complained about the drinks being expensive, the beers are the same price as any other place, the margaritas are $6.00 but they use a really good tequila. I can't remember what it is, but I've seen them pour 3 or 4 bottles in when refilling the margarita urn and I remember it being a good one and not some generic bottom of the barrell crap.

Not one thing on the menu is over $9.00.

The sweet potato fries are nothing special, but they do become addictive when eating them. I know that doesn't make sense, but it's true.

Standing in line is not that big of a deal. Learn to get up and stand in it when it has died down a little. Order a bucket of beer to keep from having to stand in line. That's what we do. On less busy nights we'll go for the margaritas, but when they are slammed we just go ahead and get a bucket and that saves us the trouble of having to get up and stand in line to wait for another beer.

I know I've gone on and on, but me and my friends just love this place. It's so casual and laid back, and so what if they don't have "table service". The food is still great, the atmosphere (especially spring, summer and fall on the patio) is fun, and I've never had a disappointing experience. I guess I'm just a little bit more laid back then some though ;)

April 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Miller

The Cantina on 119 just opened, so my wife, son and myself went there this past Thursday for dinner. We had never been to the one in Southside, so we sat down at a table and waited for service. We were greeted almost immediately, handed some menus, and were told very politely to take our time and look over the menu, but whenever we were ready to order at the register. I admit I was a slightly annoyed to learn that we had to get up and place our orders at the register, but we were already there so we decided to stay and just try it out, if only for one time. A short time later while we were still sitting at the table looking over the menu, a girl came back up and asked if we had any questions or if she could recommend anything to help us out. That was nice, but I still found the idea of ordering at the register odd. We finally decided on the Shrimp Quesadila (as recommended), the Chicken Enchiladas (as recommended) and I had some kind of Steak dinner (I can't remember the exact name of it). Ordering in line wasn't that big of a deal. My wife had a Margarita (whatever the pink one is called), which was one of the best we've both ever tasted, and I just had a beer and my son a sprite. Long story short, THE FOOD WAS INCREDIBLE! I can't believe I'm saying this considering how turned off I was by the lack of table service, but MY FAMILY AND I WILL BE BACK. You just can't beat the price of the food for the taste and quality that you get.


April 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn M. and Family

First time customer here. Had never been to the one downtown, but recently went to the one on 119. I expected the usual Tex-Mex, but it wasn't Tex-Mex at all. Very different and VERY good. Will be frequenting this joint often and glad that it is in the neighborhood. The prices are just right, the staff is friendly and helpful, and it's just a cool, laid-back atmosphere. Table service would be nice, but it's not that big of a deal. We started a tab and when we ordered a beer, the cashier recommended just getting a bucket of beer to avoid having to keep getting up. We appreciated the suggestion and did so, which was a good thing because the place soon got packed. Haven't yet tried the margaritas, but heard they were good. We had the shrimp quesadilla and the special, which was tilapia. Excellent recommendations. Enjoyed it very much.


April 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

I love the Cantina. One of my favorite things about it is that they RECYCLE, that means a lot to me. I crave their fish tacos and their queso. Mmmmmmm.

April 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlib

This place probably has the best Mexican food I have ever tasted outside of Mexico, and all for under $10. Glad it's now over here (119), and we will be returning regularly.

May 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

this place is awesome.

love the atmosphere, the blues music, and the shrimp quesadillas.

only been once so far, but will be going back often.

May 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentera.j.

I LOVE Cantina! I cannot believe all the negative comments. The food is incredible and service is great. It is a laid back sort of place and not for the uptight. The water issue shouldn't be such a big deal and if you really have a problem with it, they will give you tap water. But, I think people need to remember that water and ice are expensive, so if you're just being cheap, GET OVER IT!
I go there all the time and hope it will be hear for many years to come!!

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

Well, I am surprised at the negative comments, I think you just have to be open minded when it comes to the laid back atmosphere & ordering yourself, this to me is very convenient because that makes a faster service, the turn around between the time you order & having food on the table has never been greater than 10 minutes, which you usually don't get at any restaurant that has fresh made to order food. And if really what you need is service to enjoy your time out, you should try the sister restaurant Sol Y Luna which a lot of articles in different magazines have mentioned. As a matter of fact it just came to be the most popular place for a "Girls Night Out" in the Birmingham Magazine most current issue.
Going back to cantina, and a previous comment, the idea of been able to have your reserved space on a Friday/Saturday night, is a privilege, as it rarely happens at any other hip restaurant. If you are the one having the party, wouldn't you like that?
The atmosphere is phenomenal, it is definetly not your "typical" Mexican restaurant. As far as the drinks, you pay for what you get, the tequila in the margaritas they use is of good quality, and as of the water I really preffer to know the water I'm drinking is safe to drink & not just tap water.
As you can tell I'm a huge fan of Cantina & a regular costumer too & I wouldn't change it for anything. I'm glad Birmingham has a place like this as it helps the growth of our cultural point of view & development of the city.
And one more thing... This is deffinetly a relaxed social place to see & be seeing!!!

September 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

Just thought I'd follow up my previous post with some recent improvements I've noticed at Cantina. They've expanded indoors, with more tables for diners in addition to some cool seating arrangements for groups enjoying drinks/appetizers. They have also, apparently, done away with only serving bottled water. I was there on Friday night and was given the option of bottled or tap water. The food was as delicious as we've had on previous visits and the service was incredibly quick. I went to the restroom after we placed our order and the food was being served when I returned to the table! Thumbs up, Cantina!

December 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCat

The food is more interesting than most, especially the fish tacos, but along the lines of posters who complained that the Cantina used to not permit people to order tap water, it drives me crazy that they charge for chips & salsa. What other Mexican restaurant does this?! None, not even La Paz. This place does nickel & dime, which is disappointing.

May 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeckibob

Great hang out. Relaxing atmosphere and authentic food. Honestly, the tacos are not the best but I'm addicted to the corn in a cup! They also have excellent guac and salsa.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSmith

Went there about a month ago on a recommendation by a "friend". I seriously thought of not being friends with her after i visited this place. The service was great but the food was horrible. By far the WORST food i have had in Birmingham since moving here two years ago. Overpriced frozen fish tacos, greasy meat. The bottled water was probably the best thing they offered because they didn't cook it! STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS PLACE!

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllen

In this place we can find the best tacos around the entire country. Last time I went I asked for 10 of them. Tacos from here are simply out of this world, its flavor is undescribable. Viagra Online Pharmacy

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

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