Southside Cantina – July 2010 (dt)
6.19 – 7, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 5.5, 5.5, 5

Whether it is the competent casual, or a welcome change in area cuisine, Southside Cantina (in greater eastern Leeds!) has established itself as a comfortable, close-to-home venue. Even better, it felt like a good choice for the single night all month that Party of Eight could join together, with the summer months presenting the ever-growing challenge of finding a common date, ironically, for people who have plenty of time.
               Southside Cantina is a satisfying reincarnation of the former Logsider, the Adirondack-themed establishment that was due for a major refreshening (or, was it a facelift?). The remaining Adirondack physical ambiance certainly adds an idiosyncratic feel to the Southwest/Mexican cuisine but it seems to work well, as most of us could testify from earlier individual visits.
               The exterior is classic Adirondack rustic meets busy concrete, pot-holed state road. Dark-stained log walls suggest a respite after the diner hurriedly parks the car to relax from the automotive street hustle. A new-ish deck, with several tables, might be inviting if the deck-sitter is not facing the road.
               Upon entry, to the right, a three sided, fifteen seat bar, is the first sight, awash from the indirect light streaming from the east wall of windows. Past experience has told us the bar can be a hopping site.
               Several steps up lead to the greeter’s podium. Meanwhile, the same physical interior structure of the Logsider remains. A narrow alleyway lines the front of the dining area, with the outside light dampened by the awnings, making for a cozy “porch” area. The same alleyway wraps around the west side to the most private of tables, although window cutouts allow for light to flow in.
               The main room is the room. About 40’by 30’, the main eating room allows for a dozen tables, topped with Southwest-motif plastic sheets. Banquet style chairs with a bright red plastic seat and back cushion are adequate and almost unnoticed. A linen-wrapped three-piece silver setting was accompanied by a water glass.
               The signature imprint of the restaurant is the full-length, large whole logs, chinked with filler, and painted a lighter yellow. Big and bold statement. Just as big is the peak ceiling of stained wide-cut, length-of-the-building lumber that emphasizes the size of the logs in the wall. A significant fireplace centers the west wall, lending an anticipation of autumn warmth only a season away. Two west-looking skylights added lighting that kept the interior lights unnoticed until almost eight pm this near-summer-peak evening. The interior light came from the driveway-lantern type sconces, two to a wall, while a wagon wheel chandelier anchors the center of the room. Two faux window cutouts, imitating shelving, broke the expanse of the log walls, one with Southwest artifacts, the other with sauce bottles.
               DP8 took their seats upon arrival, with Don and Chay heading the table, with three’s down (or up?) the sides, as Judy had requested. Water glasses were promptly filled, with a carafe of water left behind, a sure way to satisfy DP8’s many requests for water re-supply.
               Instead of the usual wine orders, a fragmented drink order filled this evening – Margaritas for two, beer on tap for two, glasses of pinot noir for two, diet soda for two.
              The request for entrée choices found us unready, so we postponed that with an appetizer order. The guacamole dip with corn chips, along with the fried shrimp in a pastry shell bowl, with accompanying dips of tartar and red sauce, kept us busy until we could make up our minds. A steady reaching and nibbling consumed both in short order.
              The regular menu, and a lengthy specials menu, reflect the Americanized Southwest/Mexican cuisine, one that has worked well, so far. No one bragged about the expert preparation but almost everyone enjoyed his/her choice: chicken chimichanga (Chay); shredded chicken enchilada (Deb K); fried clams (Deb T); the chicken & beef tostada special (Don); lime & garlic shrimp (Judy); Delmonico steak, with corn and Texas toast (Tim); the Southside burger (Kriss); and the flat iron steak with a heavy dose of horseradish-onion topping (Ken). All came accompanied by a choice of rice and beans (chosen by most) or fries (two or three). We had anticipated a change of pace from our usual cuisine, and a general sense of agreeability reigned.
              The dessert choices are presented on a sample plate, tonight by the dessert maker. Some may not like this presentation style but it does give a picture of what awaits, and we had several questions to ask. The butterscotch brownie, with a scoop of ice cream got most of the attention (Judy, Kriss, Ken: good although the brownie was a bit dry); chocolate lava cake (Don: a satisfying basic); meringue sundae with blueberries and strawberries (Deb T: good); banana nut cake with rum frosting (Deb K and Chay shared: very good); and Sambuca (Chay).
              Service was competent-casual also. We recognized one of our elementary school colleagues, and Melissa was attentive and capable, checking back several times, with an easy flow of business and banter. The pacing of the evening felt busy although by evening’s end, two hours had passed, a comfortable pace for us. The waitstaff presentation does not approach the highest levels, but it was certainly quite appropriate for Southside’s style, and more than one comment suggested service was better than usual. (Perhaps, the drink order was a tad slow, and that was the bar’s doing.)
             The bill for the evening, including tax, drinks and tip, came to $75 per couple, a relatively inexpensive evening, although a one or two thought it a bit high, considering the selection of a few $10-$15 dollar entrées.
             So, many of us had dined here before, we finally had chosen it for one of our dates, and it is likely to be a future individual choice several times in the future. A nice job, Southside Cantina.

The evening had started at, well, the restaurant, since it was a work Friday, and the real-world people were rushing to make the 6 pm (early, for us) start. The clump of us was settled by quarter after. Thus, the usual chatter and catching up was done at the table. With one or two or three conversations going on, it felt, at times, a complete handle of news was scattered. However, some of our topics included: Don’s retirement party and details; the upcoming wedding and a certain mother’s dress still waiting to be found; the Karnes weekend in Dunkirk, the baseball field dedication, family, etc.; a recap of the Noel & Mari party at the grandparents; a broken clavicle; someone’s very sore shoulder; summer plans, of course; someone’s interesting sister; ... and more.
             We drove home about 8:30 pm, into the remaining 30-60 minutes of the near-solstice dusk, a rarity.
             It will be eight weeks, the longest possible, until our next get-together – practically the whole summer break. Until then, stay healthy, all.