¡OLE`! – Cocina De Carlos

. January 2, 2016.

Cocina De Carlos Fresh Mexican Cuisine & Cantina
205 Farnsworth Rd. Waterville
27072 Carronade Dr., Perrysburg
Sun-Thur: 11a.m.-9p.m. | Fri-Sat: 11a.m.-10p.m.
419-878-0261 | www.cocinadecarlos.com

The Short Course

Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Anytime
Noise level:  Loud
Bathroom amenities:  Very clean but no changing station
High chairs? Yes
Got milk?  Yes
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? Yes, for tikes under 10
Food allergy concerns? Very accommodating to those with allergies. Gluten free and vegan items available as well.

¡Ole`! AKA-Bravo! I have some extremely shocking news for a few of my friends. I will no longer tag along begrudgingly for Mexican food on our GNO.  I would now LOVE to go out for Mexican cuisine with y’all. Wow. Did I just say that? There’s just one catch. Well, maybe two. I’ll go only if it’s to Cocina de Carlos, and my kids might want to tag along as well.

Expect the unexpected

It’s not that the kids and I dislike Mexican fare, it’s more the fact that most places in the area serve what I refer to as pseudo-Mexican. In other words, lackluster and it tastes the same under all the cheese. Until now.

Carlos Mendez is from Jalisco, Mexico. He came to the United States many years ago, and brought with him his love of authentic Mexican food. I was unaware of his Perrysburg location and this past summer he opened a second location in Waterville occupying the historic Smedlap Smithy.

I questioned how that building could be transformed to a Mexican cantina? Will that unique feel be gone? And how will this food taste different from the other restaurants around town? Oh, ye of little faith.

Mendez left much on the interior and exterior of the building untouched. The framed historic pictures remain on the walls, and yes, the tree in the center of the dining room and the winding slide remain. Adding a bit of Mexican flair, they kept the color scheme mostly neutral to blend with the open ceiling and brick walls. My children and I found the interior aesthetically pleasing. We were sold on the atmosphere, but what about the food? That was the best surprise.

So far beyond the burrito you’ll wonder where you are

Please excuse my unbridled enthusiasm about our new find, but it was truly so unexpected and I was so glad to have found a Mexican cantina that the kids and I ALL got so excited about.   We discussed the best way to describe the food other than authentic. To say gourmet didn’t really seem to fit, yet the menu items were several notches above what we were used to. And the service? It was most attentive, but not overbearing. The general manager Cesar Garcia made the rounds to many tables throughout the evening. He was very helpful with deciding what we might want to try on the menu. You will find many entrees titled “Top 20” and others “Family Favorites.”

My Pineapple Don Charly was one of the specialties and was served in half of a grilled pineapple. Filled with pineapple, onions, mushrooms, cheese, and chicken it was a delectable balance of tangy and spicy. It was served with refried beans and rice and though it also had flour tortillas, I preferred delving in with just my fork.

The Margarita Chicken is another family fave and consisted of grilled chicken with lime, smoked bacon, roasted corn, black beans and queso blanco. The street taco was scrumptious as well.

For children accustomed to more basic Mexican food, they offer five Mexican choices on the kids’ menu such as tacos, burritos and also chicken nuggets. The drink, a side, and an ice cream cup are included for just $5. Not to make my older two feel left out, our waitress graciously offered them ice cream cups as well.

Fresh and from scratch… always

The menu asks for patience if your order takes a tad longer, as everything is made fresh when you order and I’m sure that includes the margaritas. I wasn’t in the mood for one and I passed judgement that if they were in those big glasses they were probably mostly sweet and sour mix. Oh, again, ye of little faith. Upon hearing of my disappointment for not trying one, Garcia made me a sample so I would know for my next visit. I assure you they are wonderful.

Bottom Line: If you and your kids have grown weary of the typical Mexican food you find around town, Cocina de Carlos must be your next stop. The food is fresh and unique, the staff is attentive, and the kids are most welcome. The noise level can be a bit loud, but then you won’t have to worry when your little one squeals with delight going down the indoor slide.

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH. She can be reached in c/o editor@toledoparent.com.