Altstadt partner Ward Van Allen quietly opened his new Mexican restaurant and cantina in Pioneer Square this week, pouring margaritas and slinging proper tequila-soaking Mexican fare in a neighborhood that lacks it. The building that used to be home to Calozzi’s Cheesesteaks has been transformed into a handsome new space, unrecognizable down to the splashy new ruby-red paint job outside. Casco Antiguo is a classier sort of Mexican restaurant than the ones that traffic in monster nacho platters or sombreros full of chips, but it’s far from stuffy—big-screen TVs and margaritas on tap in the back cantina are likely to draw more than a few Seahawks fans in search of a pre-kickoff watering hole.
Here's what to expect from the dyadic eatery (hint: margarita kegs are involved).
Eat: A taco or two from chef Rodolfo “Rudy” Riveron, late of The Saint. Riveron learned to cook by his mother’s side while growing up in Mexico City, and some of the recipes at Casco Antiguo are hers. The menu is pan-Mexican crowd-pleaser material, but with an eye toward local sourcing and seasonality. There’s a respectable selection of meat-heavy tacos and plates and a smattering of slightly moreadventurous starters (nopal cactus salad, anyone?). Rice, beans, plantains, and corn mash are available a la carte, and the rotating dessert list features classics like churros, Mexican hot chocolate, and chocolate-ancho flan.
Drink: A margarita from the tap, whether it’s the house marg or one of the rotating specials, like hot pepper or elderflower. According to Van Allen, they pack an extra-inebriating punch thanks to the slight carbonation they get from the tap system (you be the judge of whether that’s a good thing). If you’re not into tequila, well, you’re probably in the wrong place—but you can find solace in a small selection of drafts, bottles, and cans, as well as a few wines.
Sit: In the all-ages restaurant seating area, or head down the hall to the cantina, but this isn’t a business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back kind of situation. Van Allen says that he doesn’t anticipate dramatically different crowds in the two spaces—despite the massive TV screens in the cantina that, surprise surprise, aren’t actually there to cater to the Pioneer Square pre-game pregaming set (they’ll usually play spaghetti westerns, except when home games are on). You’ll find some bar seating in the warm wood-lined, candlelit restaurant space, and a smattering of booths in the exposed-brick cantina. Casco Antiguo isn’t two restaurants for the price of one—but it sure is cohesive.
Bonus Intel: The restaurant stops serving at 10, but if you enter through the alley door in the back you can partake in that margarita tap into the wee hours of the morning.