Hayman Island is located on the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, approximately 10,000 miles from the Cayman Islands. That short geography lesson is the origin of a most interesting story.
Chef Ron Hargrave, an Aussie, thought he had applied for a job on Hayman Island many years ago. However, when he was accepted for the position, he ended up in Cayman instead of Hayman. Was he under the influence of too much Fosters lager or simply atlas naïve? We’ll let him tell you that story at another time, but for now you should know that he liked Cayman so much, he decided to stay, start a family, and subsequently opened his first restaurant in East End, known as Tukka.
Now, after some successful seasons with Tukka and his additional Eagle Ray’s Dive Bar and Grill, Hargrave has gone Mexican with his third venture: Taco Cantina. As if kangaroo sausage and Crocodile Dundee videos weren’t enough of a diversity in East End, the atmosphere at the Cantina’s Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 5 was as authentic as a Mexican fiesta could get with a house full of gringos and locals.
Chef Ron has proven his culinary clout; after all, anyone who can come from “Down Under” to make a huge success of an Australian-themed restaurant on the far side of the island is bound to have a bunch of ideas hidden away in his ‘roo pouch.
The new Cantina’s fare consists of classic enchiladas, tacos and citrus ceviches; Mexican dishes so spicy and tasty it will make Trump reconsider the wall. Of course, no chintzy here – Chef Ron comes from “a land of plenty” and a-plenty Mexican cuisine is what you will get at Taco Cantina.
Let us not forget that world-famous Mexican beverage (and I don’t mean Corona beer with a slice of lime). I’m talking about margarita! I’ve always been a margarita fan, but I had no idea that there were so many brands of tequila. It seems that Taco Cantina has imported them all. The assortments of the blue agave plant beverage are displayed behind a margarita bar which is small, but cozy. There’s something very “south of the border” about a blender keeping perfect time with the mariachi music serenading through the house speakers as the bartender mixes a tangy, frosty, lime concoction in a huge salt-rimmed glass. Add fresh guacamole and puffy tortilla chips to that glorious combination, and you’ll soon trade in your T-shirt for a poncho and sombrero.
Now, for any of you doubters who might say, “What’s an Aussie know about making tacos”? Well, Ron’s lionfish tacos have been a favorite East End dish for years. In fact, they are so popular that nearly 14,000 pounds of lionfish have been culled to keep up with the demand. Ay, caramba!
Taco Cantina is located 20 yards down the road from Ocean Frontiers, where Chef Remy’s Bombay Chopsticks was previously located. Open Tues-Sun from 4-9 p.m. Call 947-7278 for reservations and information.