Kirkwood, with its nice old houses and a bustling downtown populated largely by locally owned businesses, is especially appealing at this time of year, when it feels like one of those New England suburbs that decorate the front of a Christmas card. One expects to see a parcel-loaded Barbara Stanwyck bump into S.Z. (Cuddles) Sakall and nearly take a tumble into a snow bank.
However, we'd hope that Barbara would have taken time to stop and catch her breath and a margarita at Amigos Cantina, and then have a nice lunch. We did just that recently, and were exceedingly happy with what we got. It will be worth further exploration to find out about how the Amigos handle things like crab cakes and the tamales advertised in the window. Service was affable and unrushed, and though lunch hour made the dining room increasingly busy, meals arrived with proper timing, led by excellent margaritas, made with top-shelf ingredients; even better, there was none of the icky artificial lime that flavored the green lollipops of our childhood.
The Monday lunch special is a chile relleno, lightly battered and quickly fried. Gooey cheese, a relatively mild chile, and a little textural contrast from the batter: What else could you ask for on a gray day? The tomato rice that came alongside was fluffy rather than soggy, but took second place to the beans. There's a choice of black beans or pinto beans, which is nice, and made even better by the fact that the beans are not refried, just cooked gently until the natural juices thicken. The black beans were excellent, full of flavor, tender but not exploding. We generally prefer them to pintos, but in this case, the pintos won out, displaying a wonderful smokiness and a little heat, taking them far beyond most of their family.
Tacos are offered in three styles, “Americana,” offering beef, pork or chicken in crispy or soft corn or soft (wheat) flour; “traditional Mexican,” providing a greater variety of fillings,including mild or spicy fish with Napa cabbage, fajita steak with sauteed onions and peppers, pork with roasted peppers and marinated chicken; or “taco puffs.” Unable to resist the name, we ordered them and received two flour shells that had been deep fried until they were as crisp as a sopapilla, and then topped with the same ingredients as the "Americana." We chose chicken and pork, which were accompanied by satisfactory guacamole, sour cream and a salsa verde that was nicely tart and tangy, with mild-to-medium level of spice. The chicken was shredded and lightly seasoned, properly moist but not outstanding, especially as compared to the pork, which was chopped into small chunks, tender, very juicy and just made for this dish --- which was, we admit, tricky to eat gracefully, as shatteringly crisp as the tortillas were. Still, a dribble of the salsa verde and all was forgiven.
120 W. Jefferson Ave., Kirkwood
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair