By JACK WEATHERLY
A Sunday brunch may not be the best test of a Mexican restaurant.
But it was fair, I felt.
So this is how we approached it at the Cantina Laredo, the new, airy eatery at the District at Eastover.
Just to make sure that we had a benchmark order for basis of comparison, my wife ordered her favorite: crab cakes benedict.
I went for something brunchy as well, but more in line with the cuisine.
We had discovered the brand several years ago when we were living in Little Rock. It raised our expectations for south-of-the border dining.
So when I learned that one was coming to Jackson, the first in Mississippi and the 36th in the country, in addition to one in London and another in Abu Dhabi, I made a mental reservation to indulge in what I call haute Mexican.
We arrived a bit before noon and there was a low hum of business. We were seated immediately in one of the booths. And didn’t have to wait for service.
A lime and an avocado awaited in a silver bowl.
What’s a good Mexican restaurant without made-at-the-table guacamole? But that will wait for the next time. We did indulge a bit in the bowl of freshly made tortilla chips and a small dish of roasted tomato salsa and one of tomatina salsa.
The brunch menu is reasonably priced, especially when you consider that a choice of either a bloody Mary, bloody Maria or mimosa, is complimentary. The Mary is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the Maria with Casa Noble organic tequila, and the mimosa with freshly squeezed orange juice.
I ordered a chicken fajita omelet.
Details make the difference.
The chicken was sliced into medallions, instead of the usual stringy fajita cuts. So was the side dish of potatoes.
Covered in chipotle-wine sauce, the omelet was satisfying, as was the price: $13.29. The crab cakes benedict: the most expensive at $15.79. Jill said they were comparable to her favorite at another restaurant on our brunch circuit.
Let’s talk atmosphere. You can’t eat it but you can taste it.
As mentioned, this is an airy place, made more so by the covered patio, which is air-conditioned or heated depending on the time of year.
And there is flexibility. A good call was made when we were there Sunday. The temperature was a bit low for this time of year in the Deep South, and, more important, the humidity was low.
So the transparent shades were raised and the breeze was delicious, we discovered, even though we ate “inside.”
The décor is understated in a Latin style, from the black rafters below the white industrial ceiling, to the gray polished concrete floors, to the hint of traditional Mexican orange here and there.
There is no carpeting, which is a good call from an aesthetic and practical perspective. But the clatter of dishes and voices got a bit loud before we left as the place started to fill up its 211 seats.
That’s good business, which stands to get better as the 24-acre District fills in with retailers and residents of the District Lofts.
Parking? Not a problem for us. The restaurant has anticipated that possibility, it seems. A valet service is offered, though we didn’t need it.
Next time: the whole enchilada.