Comida Cantina serves customers outdoors on its rooftop deck. It has live music and occasional yoga classes on the deck, too. (Courtesy of Comida Cantina Evanston )
Comida Cantina serves customers outdoors on its rooftop deck. It has live music and occasional yoga classes on the deck, too.

Courtesy of Comida Cantina Evanston

Open Tab: Comida Cantina offers flavorful food, wherever you eat it

October 14, 2020

The Monthly

While dining at Comida Cantina on Central Street, it’s easy to feel like it’s been serving customers its Mexican and Latin American-inspired cuisine for years. Wait staff talk about dishes with deep familiarity and the atmosphere is comfortable and homey. But the restaurant opened in January, and according to general manager Eric Green, only experienced a few months of normalcy before the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close its doors. Green said everything about Comida has changed in the last few months, from how it interacts with customers to its overall business model. One thing has stayed the same, however: incredibly delicious food that you dream about after taking your last bite.

The friendly staff and industrial aesthetic at Comida are all a part of its draw, but the food and drinks are why there’s often an hours-long wait to get a table at the restaurant. Green said the menu represents food that’s a cross between fine dining and casual, which gives customers the ability to eat their favorite foods, like empanadas or flautas, with an upscale twist that comes from unique spices or ingredients. My favorite dish is the Latin fried rice topped with seared ahi tuna, which is crusted in Tajín, a chili lime salt that bursts with flavor.

Beyond its innovative dishes, the pandemic forced Comida to add items suitable for carry out service to its menu. Burritos, fajitas and customizable bowls are all new additions, but Green said customers have welcomed them. Comida is also known for its agave spirits – like tequila – and mezcal bar, including mixed drinks like a Paloma and daiquiris. Green said margaritas are Comida’s signature drink, and they come six ways: classic, spicy, hibiscus, guava, mango and strawberry. The restaurant sells 12-ounce bottles of its margaritas as well, so people can host a party at home, Green said.

Comida recently welcomed customers back into the restaurant to dine indoors, in addition to continuing its pick-up service. In August, Comida also completed building its rooftop deck with heat lamps where patrons can enjoy eating outside, even during the chilly fall. According to Green, it’s the second rooftop deck in Evanston – the other being Five & Dime – and overlooks a beautiful view of Central Street. Comida has live music on the deck, where it occasionally hosts yoga classes. Green said there are also plans to add a bar to the deck. He wants to continue seating customers outside as long as they can bear the impending cold, and Comida will add a delivery option during the winter.

Green recognizes that customers miss the pre-pandemic dining out experience now, and will even more so this winter when outdoor options become few and far between. But he believes that eating at or ordering take-out from small, local restaurants like Comida will bring a sense of comfort to people during these unpredictable times.

“We named this restaurant Comida because food brings people together, no matter where you’re eating it.” Green said. “As long as the food is great and you’re in good company, that’s what matters.”

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