If you’re looking for a hearty, inexpensive lunch or dinner near Bellingham, WA, look no further than The Cantina at Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa.
The Mexican and Latin American-inspired restaurant is sequestered in a corner of the casino, with seating for 66 beneath elegant pendant lights that extend from the ceiling. One wall features a photograph of a massive tree set in a field of agave plants, while another displays a metal sculpture of an aloe Vera plant. Diners can choose from booths or tables for four and the décor is modern and elegant with guacamole-colored napkins and seating and Mexican-style silverware and glassware.
My kids and I had an hour for lunch and were glad to nibble on warm tortilla chips and a delightful, mild salsa while we perused the lunch menu. Most of the items range from $9.95 to $11.95 and the only dish priced higher was the special of the day, a $12.95 fajita quesadilla. Fussy eaters, my kids requested lots of substitutions when they ordered the taco salad, fajita and tacos. None are partial to meat or spicy ingredients and our server accommodated all requests easily. Friendly and personable, she recommended black beans instead of the pintos refritos (which are cooked in chicken stock and contain lard) and spicy sauce served on the side, just to be safe.
Our food arrived within 20 minutes of placing the order and we were stunned at the size of the portions. They were massive. Kids 12 and under can easily share a single entrée because these dishes are hearty. You don’t leave this restaurant hungry, that’s for sure.
We tucked in, enjoying the fresh ingredients, crispy taco shells and beautiful plate arrangements, compliments of House Chef Lupe Cortes. Cortes started out as a line cook and was promoted to his present position a few months ago. His most popular dishes are the fajita quesadilla ($12.95), the poblano cream enchiladas ($11.95) and the beef arracherra mazatlan ($22.95). The latter is on the dinner menu only and is a citrus-marinated skirt steak with bacon-wrapped shrimp, caramelized, onions and peppers, pintos refritos, rice, sour cream, guacamole and tortillas.
Given the mostly adult clientele at Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa it’s no surprise that The Cantina has no high chairs or children’s menu. But the fare at the restaurant is easily recognizable and definitely kid-friendly. We devoured our entrees with gusto and gladly accepted another basket of tortilla chips when the guacamole made an appearance. It was fresh, tangy and delicious.
There was little space left over for dessert but we had to at least sample Cortes’ three specials. The choco flan ($6.95), a rich, creamy concoction of dark chocolate cake topped with cajeta was the highlight at our table. But the lemon and honey tres leches cake ($5.95), with alternating layers of lemon cake and honey buttercream soaked in a tres leches sauce, was a close second. I couldn’t resist scooping the zesty caramelized coconut candy off the cocada ($4.95), a vanilla bean ice cream boasting this crunchy, sweet topping.
We loved our meal at The Cantina for its combination of ambience, affordably priced food, quick and friendly service and decadently large entrees. If you love Mexican dishes, don’t miss out on a meal here.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Thursday, with later closing hours Friday and Saturday
Where: Haxton Way at Slater Road, Ferndale, WA
Contact: 866 383-0777 or www.silverreefcasino.com/the-cantina