17th Avenue SW has never lacked an abundance of bars and restaurants. However, when Melrose decided to shut it’s doors in 2014, there was a big hole left for a local drinking spot between 6th and 7th Street. Enter Blanco Cantina, sister establishment of Mission’s successful tequila bar, Anejo. On a random Wednesday night, I decided to drag a friend with me to see what this cantina had to offer. Blanco has marketed themselves as a rum bar that serves tex-mex dishes, so I was expecting some great drinks with some spicy food! The newest watering hole on 17th Avenue resides in the space previously filled by Brava Bistro and the space is completely transformed into a perfect drinking atmosphere. The bar occupies the full south wall, which is fully stocked with a large selection of rums as well as other libations. The room is filled with a variety of seating options, from comfy banquets for larger groups, to high top tables for smaller parties. There are also big drop down doors that lead to a large patio space facing 17th Ave, which I’m sure will be a big hit once summer rolls around. The decor screams cantina, with a variety of neon beer signs and other drinking paraphernalia on the walls.
After ordering a rum inspired cocktail, our waitress mentioned that Blanco allows you to create your own plate of nachos, a genius idea that I’m surprised hasn’t been replicated at other establishments – or you can choose from a popular combo if you feel a bit lazy. You can also make your own poutine with the same options; but nachos seemed much more appropriate given the setting. On this night we went with the medium sized plate with beef brisket, red onion, diced tomato, cilantro, black olives and fresh jalapeños. The nacho platter was much bigger than I was expecting and came with a ton of meat piled on, topped with some sour cream. The melted cheese was layered throughout the nachos but the vegetable toppings were a bit lacking. The salsa and the guacamole were also good dip options for the nachos, I just wish there were more of each. These nachos were definitely the quintessential accompaniment to a few of Blanco’s signature drinks.
After being stuffed with nachos, we focused in on the spicy tex-mex food to come. We decided to order a 1/2 pound offering pulled beef burrito, covered in a red sauce and topped with cilantro, along with the skirt steak fajitas. I went with the waitresses suggestion of cornbread and salad as sides. The skirt steak came on a sizzling plate with some onions and peppers along with grilled lime, salsa and sour cream and some warm tortillas. The burrito was stuffed with plenty of meat, rice and some veggies however it was lacking in both flavour and spice. Every bite was screaming for some salt, cumin and/or chillies; the presence of Valentinas Hot Sauce at the table was my best attempt to salvage the dish. The cornbread and salad were decent enough side dishes but neither were overly exciting. Unfortunately, the fajitas suffered the same fate as the burrito. It came with an abundance of meat, which was cooked perfectly but lacked any seasoning and spice. The side of rice and beans added a textural component but again were very lacking in flavour. Another disappointing dish.
Blanco is perfectly suited to be a great spot as a neighborhood watering hole where groups of friends can meet over a few drinks and plates of nachos. But Blanco has a few tweaks to be made to many of their menu items before it can be known as a to-go destination for it’s food.