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Thursday, April 16, 1998

Salsa on the sidewalk

Posted on Thu, Apr 16, 1998 at 4:00 AM

With its French doors thrown open and its patio seating extending onto the sidewalk, Wall Street Cantina tries a little too hard to be hip. Actually it's the location on Wall Street Plaza that lends a cool, slightly seedy edge.

The plaza's brick pathways and planters are a little scraggly and derelict, and so are some of its habitues. Yet it's a magnet for action, especially after dark. You can get a genuine, big-city vibe sitting at one of the patio tables, watching an impromptu parade of mismatched humanity. This new downtown dining venue is a perfect place to collect your thoughts at the height of a Saturday-night club-hopping spree and nosh on some good Tex-Mex.

Most items on the menu can be had for $7 or less, including the requisite nachos and quesadillas. Much of it is just honest-to-goodness fried food heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream, and it's absolutely delicious. Burgers, pastas, salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings.

Service was friendly but slapdash when we visited on a Saturday night. With a nearly full house and not enough staff, our waitress tossed menus and drinks at us and scurried away before we could decide on all of our orders. She returned soon enough, and we began our meal with a delicious basket of "stockpoppers" ($4.95), which are fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and served with raspberry-pepper jelly.

The blackened chicken quesadillas ($5.95) also were a hit at our table, even if they were a bit slim on chicken. "The $Money$ Dip" ($4.95) was a thick concoction of melted white cheeses, chunky artichokes and spinach. It was fine, but we probably would have liked it better if the tortilla chips had been fresher. They tasted like they'd been sitting around for a few hours.

The chicken chimichanga ($6.50) was almost too long for the dinner platter. But we quickly demolished its crispy, fried shell and spicy fillings of chilies and cheeses. We also had a very good Cajun burger ($6.45), thick and juicy, served with plenty of sautéed onions and Swiss cheese on a toasted Kaiser roll. The steak fries were a real highlight: a little oily, ever-so-slightly crispy and feathery light.

If you've ever wanted to experience all of downtown from a single spot while stuffing yourself silly with good food, Wall Street Cantina is the place to do it.

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