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Francisco's Cantina

In a word: Ill-fitting.

The specs: #0720  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Yelp; listing at Eat Drink Madison; Facebook, Francisco's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Latest Francisco's Cantina news and reviews

JM ate the enchiladas verdes.
Nichole ate the burrito enmolada with an horchata.
The bill was $17, or $8.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Francisco's Cantina a B+ (see our grading rubric).

This was the second time in as many months that we'd eaten on Main Street during Concerts on the Square. Francisco's wasn't crowded, though.

Chips and horchata

So the lemonade was tart and the horchata was mixed by the glass (though clearly not homemade). The salsa had a cumin hit and bigger pieces of delicious, ripe tomato that had probably never seen the inside of a blender. The chips were quite hard and thick, and unsalted.

JM was not so super-impressed by his watery enchiladas and beans.  Which isn't to say that he felt it was bad, just not up to what he would've liked given the option. The rice bordered on tasty, but ended up just being there. 

Enchiladas verdes

The burrito enticed Nichole with its promise of mole, but was a bit of a misstep. It was huge, but lighter than it looked, being largely stuffed with fresh shredded iceberg lettuce. Shredded white meat chicken, corn, peas, tomatoes, pinto beans and rice filled it out. The mole was complex and good and deserved a better medium: it was bitter, then metallic, then hot.

Burrito enmoladaBurrito enmolada

The menu is big and we might have found more pleasing fare if we'd stuck to the simpler things. But frankly, the stuff here is too cheap for the vicinity. Buck fifty tacos, $2.50 sopes, $6 burritos - these prices aren't about the decent food or the attentive service, they're about meeting perceived expectations, and might not fit in with the other downtown tenants.

In a perfect world, Francisco's Cantina's association with Taqueria Guadalajara would command a $3 upcharge just as easily as Upscale Mexican Joint's name-dropping of Celebrity Chef. But before we get too close to the edge of such things, we'll hang for a moment and reassert that it's better to debate them over shots of tequila and not via the interwebs.

We have to go back and try the tacos anyway, someday.


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wait....you're complaining that they're cheap eats? I actually think downtown could stand *more* cheap eat places!! I thought this place was fine. Decent food, great prices...I'd go back.

I love this place. The service is friendly, the prices are great, food is good and the location is convenient. Todd always gets the mole burrito; I get the vegetarian huarache. Their food isn't the best Mexican food. However, for the price, I think it is great.

Both good points. I'm not exactly complaining about a good value - just wondering if the prices telegraph what it seems (to us) the non-student customers want from a downtown restaurant, that is, somewhere to feel spendy.

Can a place do OK without attracting that cache? Especially if its customers have to wade through Maduro patio customers' whiskey/cigar funk to get in the door.

Francisco's Cantina would be a favorite except that the Laredos franchise usually gets my too-lazy-to-cook dollar, and Taqueria Guadalajara gets my I-want-a-really-good-taco dollar.

Ate here with my family and thought the food was really good, especially for the price. We need more places to get reasonabily priced eats downtown, especially on that side of the square. I had the Mole Burrito and thought it was good. Not every burrito has to weight a ton and sit in your stomach for a couple of days. Highly recommended.

Tacos here are decent, large, and very affordable. I like this place and it's off the square, which has sorely needed good (real) Mexican food for a while now. Quality is average, I mostly agree with your review, though for their prices Francisco's seems more about quick decent food done fast than a fine dinner. I've found that most taquerias are very serious about their tacos and other masa-based products, and see burritos as 'gringo' food, which may explain lesser execution and the abundance of lettuce.

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