It's been a good long time since we've had a Mexican dinner in this group. Of course, Mexican food is pretty commonplace, so it's hard to get too excited about it. But every now and then, a truly fantastic Mexican restaurant will appear that is worthy of special attention; such is Vida Cantina, which gets my vote for the best Mexican restaurant I've yet found in St Louis! Make no mistake, I am indeed excited about this place, so it is definitely worthy of a Friends dinner!
Cuisine - I hardly have to explain Mexican food to anyone, but the problem is that the majority of Mexican restaurants tend to feature all the same, generic, Americanized dishes as all the rest. I'm not even that fond of Mexican food for that reason... but when I've actually been to Mexico, it's another matter entirely! True Mexican food has more variety and far more depth of flavor than most of what you find here. And Vida delivers, egad does it deliver! Authentic Mexican food has a lot more seafood, for example, than what you'll usually find here; from garlic shrimp to Ceviche cocktail to lump crab nachos (and that's just appetizers), let Vida show you what real Mexican seafood tastes like! Eight different salads will let you make the same sort of discoveries in salads! Or consider the humble taco: Vida has no less than eleven different varieties, and if you know anywhere else you can get a chipotle filet and poached lobster taco, please let me know! Or consider the shrimp taco, with marinated grilled shrimp, jalapeno bacon, a blend of cheeses, cilantro, and house made mango habanero salsa! Other traditional favorites include enchiladas and burritos; my own favorite is the "El Jefe" burrito with garlic shrimp, carne asada (steak), and carnitas (crispy twice-cooked pork), served chimichanga style (fried with chipotle-seasoned white queso sauce)... maybe the best Mexican dish I've ever eaten! And I haven't even touched upon their entrees like spice-crusted ahi, pork barbacoa (slow-cooked barbeque pork), pan seared marinated salmon with manchamantel sauce and grilled pineapple salsa, or... well... I think you get the idea. Until I ate here I would have said this is an oxymoron, but this is truly gourmet Mexican food!
Cost - Mexican food is usually pretty inexpensive. Vida is a huge step up from typical Mexican food... but you'll be glad to know their prices, while a bit more than most, are still very reasonable! Pretty much the entire menu is in the low teens. A couple dishes run into the $20s, but that's exotic ones like the aforementioned steak and lobster, or huge combos like their "six signature tacos". For my money, I'll take this every time!
Other Info - Vida is located in the space that used to be Houlihans, at the northern end of the Galleria Mall next to Blackfinn. You enter from the outside of the mall on the Brentwood side. Naturally, there is a ton of parking.
I'll be looking forward to seeing lots of new Friends and old at Vida Cantina on Thursday the 29th! And come one come all, because due to my vacation in December, this will be the last Friends dinner of 2012!