Mi Cantina

Food: () Seafood-heavy menu of a couple of dozen gourmet Mexican meals

Service: () Very casual, yet prompt and friendly; food orders are quickly delivered

Atmosphere: () Somewhat sparse and geared to music, but improvements are planned

More Info

Location: 413 SW Glacier Ave., Redmond

Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Mexican

Price range: Appetizers $7 to $12, entrees $10 to $19

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Chicken taquitos, enchilada, pizza with rice and beans, no charge

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Best choice is a chile relleno vegetariano

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: No (outdoor deck planned for spring)

Reservations: Recommended for large parties

Contact: www.micantinagrill.com, 541-504-3329

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

If there’s one thing that Roberto Cardeñas appreciates as much as fine food, it’s good music.

So when the owner and executive chef of Islas Rio, a popular Mexican restaurant in Sisters, cast his eyes upon a spot that soon could be regarded as the entertainment crossroads of Central Oregon, it was only natural that music should be a part of the blend.

Mi Cantina (literally, “my bar”) opened in late October on the south side of downtown Redmond, in a low-lying building that for many years was home to an adult entertainment club. Cardeñas has transformed the spacious room into a casual and comfortable restaurant with a tequila bar and a music stage.

But the Guadalajara native — Cardeñas began cooking in 2004 at La Rosa and Amalia’s, in Bend, before he opened Rio in Madras in 2011 and expanded to the FivePine Lodge & Conference Center in 2012 — is counting upon his new location to become something much more than a simple bar and grill.

As early as this spring, Cardeñas said, the owner of the property that includes Mi Cantina plans to begin a makeover that will transform most of the block (between Glacier and Forest avenues along Canal Street) into a community hub. It will have outdoor stages for music and movies, a children’s playground and a food-cart pod. And its location within a half hour’s drive of Bend, Prineville, Madras and Sisters will make it an attractive destination for family outings.

In the meantime, Mi Cantina is booking live Hispanic bands to perform tejano, norteño, ranchero and other music every Saturday night, highlighting a lineup that also includes Friday night karaoke and a Wednesday night open mic.

Seafood menu

The menu is an abbreviated version of the one Cardeñas serves in Sisters. Last year, he rebranded Rio as “Islas Rio” and expanded seafood offerings. Now, more than half of the items served at Mi Cantina are seafood: tiger prawns, fish tacos, shrimp and octopus cocktails, crab legs, mussels, oysters and clams. In charge of the kitchen at Mi Cantina is Noemi Gutierrez, previously the sous chef in Sisters.

A good introduction to Mi Cantina is to visit during happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. every day that the restaurant is open (Tuesday to Saturday). House margaritas (made without simple syrup) are $3 at this time, as are street tacos — beef, pork or chicken.

I took advantage of the special prices to order a $12 appetizer of mussels, or “mejillones” (pronounced “may-hee-YO-nays”). Sauteed in a butter-and-garlic sauce, the half-dozen bite-sized mollusks, still in the half shell, were perfectly complemented by a watermelon slaw of Cardeñas’ own creation.

I returned for dinner with a friend. This time, I selected the molcajete (“mol-ka-HAY-tay”) borracho ($19), served in a mortar bowl made of volcanic rock. Eight giant prawns, flamed in mescal, were presented upon a bed of pasilla and bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. They were served with ranchera sauce and sour cream. I could eat this dish every day and not get tired of it.

My companion was drawn to “pierna de puerco” ($18), but upon learning the pork shank dish (in a blueberry mole with lemon-lime marinade) was not available that evening, switched her order to carne asada ($16), a standard order at better Mexican restaurants.

Here, the butterflied flank steak was grilled perfectly, medium rare and tender. It was served with a saute of onions and pasilla peppers, and tangy sides of pico de gallo, guacamole, tomatillo sauce and cilantro. Rice and beans (with a choice of black beans or refried pinto beans) came with her order and mine.

Changes to come

For now, the atmosphere at Mi Cantina tends to be sparse. Two rows of a half-dozen cloth-covered tables are lined up on a concrete floor, painted red but scuffed by the high heels and cowboy boots of weekend dancers. There’s a pool table in an anteroom to the left of the entrance, a couple of cutouts of mariachis through which revelers can poke their faces, and a sound booth to enhance the music.

Cardeñas promised an upgrade with a crystal fire pit, presently on order, that he plans to install in the heart of the dining area, surrounded by couches. Also on his list is a full tiling of the concrete floor.

Service is informal, yet prompt and friendly. Servers bring food and margarita menus, and quickly take and deliver orders.

Through mid-February, Mi Cantina is offering a dinner special: When patrons order two entrees and two drinks, one entree is free.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

19263751