T-Doug’s Cantina Casual

The flavors are big. The nachos are bigger.

By Kathryn Robinson May 22, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Seattle Met

Serious Nachos Pork carnitas, green chilis, pickled onion, queso fundido

Now that the gastronomically prolific Tom Douglas is up to number freakin’ 18, it’s fair to say the man has developed a few reliable motifs. Comforting textures. Enlivening atmo. Signals to convey culinary authenticity. So it won’t be a surprise when you walk into Cantina Leña, his counter-service, casual joint in Belltown, to find crisp carnitas rendering the nachos irresistible, or metal chairs done up in a particularly celebratory shade of orange, or a bunch of folks (visibly) making tortillas in back.

But the thing is, authenticity isn’t the point at a place like Cantina Leña; vividness is. Achiote-rubbed pork shoulder for stuffing into tortillas comes bright with sour orange and pickled red onion; mescal smokes up caramel dipping sauce for the churros. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (smoky caramel sauce doesn’t). Sure, you may find a surfeit of grease in those carnitas-fundido-pickled onion nachos—but good luck pushing away the platter.  2101 Fifth Ave, Belltown; 206-519-5723

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