Review by Sarina Deacon
El Cubilete is the newest Mexican restaurant in Niagara Falls, and it is hot! Located at 9400 Niagara Falls Blvd., this cantina opened in November and has steadily grown in popularity over the months.
After two recommendations from friends, my guest and I recently chose El Cubilete as our lunchtime destination.
Festive is one way to describe the decor of El Cubilete. The outside is painted a vibrant orange that is quick to catch the eye.
I saw a back patio while walking in, but it didn't look like it was ready for customers yet. The walls on the inside were painted a vibrant yellow with three hand-painted murals that depicted farmers working on their crops in scattered sections of the restaurant. Curtains with a yellow, green and red pattern added a nice pop of color. The tables and floors were free of any crumbs and the windows were spotless, letting in plenty of sunshine, which illuminated the whole restaurant.
Sombreros were hung on a nearby wall. When my guest and I visited, a woman was celebrating her birthday and had a sombrero placed on her head while the waiters sang "Feliz Cumpleaños" to her.
There were other items hidden around the restaurant: two cardboard cutouts of "The Most Interesting Man in the World" and three blow-up hot pepper characters lounging around the bar area. I also spotted a piñata or two.
Our waiter seated us near a window and, when he brought us our chips and salsa, he also brought extra napkins. This was a very nice touch for me, because I always have to request extra napkins at other restaurants. He was quick, but did not give off an air of trying to serve us and get us out. I think he understood we were hungry and wanted to please us as soon as possible.
When my guest ordered an alcoholic beverage, our waiter made sure to ID him. He was very friendly and we received our food in less than 20 minutes.
The chips and salsa tied us over and our waiter brought out more when we finished our first bowl. He remembered to ask if our drinks needed refilling and if everything tasted OK.
He did forget to bring me my guacamole salad with my meal, but since I, too, had forgotten about it at the end of my meal, I didn't hold this against him. He was very apologetic about the mistake.
When we first sat down, our waiter brought us tortilla chips and salsa to munch on while we selected our dishes. The chips were warm, thin and crispy. The salsa came in its own container and one bowl for each of us. This is a perfect solution for double-dippers.
The salsa itself was blended well - no chunks of tomatoes were to be found like in other salsas. One could taste the notes of cilantro and onion and even spot tiny tomato seeds. It was obvious this salsa was homemade. I also appreciated that it was not too spicy. My guest's tiny bowl came in handy here, as he was able to add a few drops of hot sauce for an extra kick.
For our drinks, I ordered lemonade ($1.99) and my guest ordered a Dos Equis ($3.75) The menu was quite long and even had an American cuisine section. I am not sure why one would go to a Mexican restaurant and order a cheeseburger, but it was a nice touch.
I was ravenous despite it being only lunchtime and selected the Steak Tampiquena ($13.25). It was described as "Grilled rib-eye steak covered with grilled onions, tomatoes and bell peppers. Served with rice, beans, guacamole salad and two tortillas."
I was very intrigued by the guacamole salad and was eager to try it. My guest ordered No. 18 off the combinations menu. It had a simple description of "Burrito, taco, rice and beans." My guest requested that it be a beef burrito.
We heard the sizzling of our food before our dishes even touched the table. The plates were hot to the touch. I cut into my steak and found it to be perfectly cooked; it was juicy yet a little fatty on the ends. The vegetables were nicely roasted and didn't need any seasoning. The rice was orange in color and very fluffy. The beans had a smoky flavor and were thick and chunky in consistency. There were topped with mozzarella cheese that created a lovely flavor combination.
I was so engrossed with my meal that I had completely forgotten about my warm tortillas. They were supposed to serve as a platter for my meat, vegetables and rice. But by the time I noticed they were missing, my meal was gone.
There was something else nagging me in the back of my mind. I realized the waiter had forgotten to bring out my guacamole salad. When it came to the table, I was unimpressed. It was simply a plate with shredded iceberg lettuce and guacamole plopped on top with a toss of cheese and a single tomato slice. I immediately regretted asking the waiter for it. I took one bite and willed myself to swallow. It was cold, mushy and not good at all. I ate some of the guacamole with the chips so I wouldn't make the waiter feel bad. The guacamole itself was all right.
My guest thoroughly enjoyed his meal. His beans and rice were the same as mine. The beef in both his burrito and taco was finely chopped. The burrito was very full and lathered in hot sauce. The taco was a bit small in size, but just enough for my guest, whose eyes were bigger then his stomach. He nearly finished his burrito before throwing in the towel. The No. 18 was a win for him.
Even though we were both stuffed, it never hurts to order something sweet afterward. My guest and I agreed on the Xangos ($4.50) as our dessert. It was described as "Cheesecake wrapped in a tortilla, fried and dusted with cinnamon." My guest ordered a coffee ($1.50) to go along with our dessert.
The Xangos was the size of my hand and covered in whipped cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles. I was a little turned off by the chocolate sauce at first, but, after the first bite, I changed my mind.
Amazing. Delectable. Life-changing. These are a just a few words I can use to describe this dessert to you. I could tell it was freshly fried or it was warm and extremely toasty. The chocolate sauce and cheesecake complemented each other very well, but somehow they were not overly sweet - something I appreciate in a dessert. The pop of whipped cream was welcomed, for it added a note of freshness to the gooiness of the Xangos.
I highly recommend this dish.
Although El Cubilete tastes more authentic than La Galera, I can't help but wonder if the two are related. The meals in the two dining establishments are extremely similar, almost to the point of being identical. El Cubilete does offer a few more items, though. I meant to ask our waiter about them, but was too engrossed in my dessert to remember.
I give El Cubilete 4 stars out of 5. I truly believe it is here to stay and look forward to going there for my Mexican food fix for many years to come.