Thursday, June 20, 2024

Blanco Cocina + Cantina Coming to Orange Ave

Coronado is Overdue for a Really Fun Happy Hour.

Running late at work sucks for a lot of reasons. But when I was working at Fashion Valley Mall, the main reason was missing happy hour at Blanco Cocina and Cantina. Back then, I was the Executive Chef and General Manager of the Zodiac Restaurant at Neiman Marcus, and often, after a long day, I felt like having a drink. You can make it to Happy Hour when your restaurant is only open for lunch, a luxury I miss dearly. 

I used to post up at the bar at Blanco for margaritas and some killer tacos; it really hit the spot. If you are a fan of The Henry and their excellent staff here in town, you will also like Blanco Cocina and Cantina. This soon-to-be happy hour (and more!) destination will make its new home in the old Bistro d’ Asia spot at 1301 Orange Avenue.  Estimated open is Summer 2024.

A glimpse of what Blanco will look like. They have not shared when it will open, but I am happy to wait.

As a point of reference, I first met Emma (the General Manager who opened The Henry) at the Blanco in Fashion Valley, as she was GM there before The Henry opened. Drew and Jessie, who are part of the current management team at The Henry, also worked there. Sam Fox hires great people, and they, in turn, hire great people. Currently, the staff at The Henry is second to none, and I have every confidence Blanco will be the same way. It’s the people that make great experiences. 

So what can we expect besides a great staff? As I mentioned, killer tacos with delicious house-made salsas, for starters. I love the Slow-cooked BBQ Pork with roasted corn slaw, pickled onion, and crema fresca. The other show stopper is the Braised Short Rib “Machaca,” with caramelized peppers, onions, cotija cheese, and sour cream. They even have an old-school Crispy Shell Taco with ground beef, sour cream, and yellow cheese. These crunchy delights take me right back to taco night at home as a child.

A selection of those killer tacos I can’t get enough of.

If you want great vegetarian options, try the Grilled Avocado Taco with spicy yogurt, cabbage, pickled onion, and crispy tortilla strips. There is also a Carmelized Sweet Potato Enchilada with grilled portabella mushrooms, kale, zucchini, manchego cheese, and ancho chili sauce. I am a big fan of meat, but more and more, I am finding vegetarian and vegan options that are blowing my mind; these are two of them. I mentioned in a past article that one of the best tacos in San Diego is just might be vegan. These options at Blanco rise to this level. 

Enchilada anyone? Try the vegetarian sweet potato version; you may surprise yourself.

Blanco offers a variety of Cheese Crisps; what are these? They are like thin-crust Mexican pizzas that are crazy delicious. Picture a flour tortilla as a crust topped with melted cheese, toasted until crisp, and topped with goodies such as chicken tinga, roasted poblano chilies, BBQ pork, and roasted corn. These toppings are not all on one crisp, but you get the idea: thin, crunchy, and yummy. Note: Chicken Tinga consists of shredded chicken and sliced onions in a sauce of tomatoes and chipotle chilis in adobo. 

These Cheese Crisps can best be described as Mexican Pizzas.

Speaking of crunchy, who doesn’t like a deep-fried burrito? Blanco rocks what they call a Tucson Chimmichuga; the menu claims these are “the soul of the Southwest.” I am always down for some good soul food.

Margarita anyone? This is an adult version of the ones I used to drink in TJ on Revolucion in the ’80s. No whistle, no whiplash.

Are you getting thirsty? I know I am writing about all these treats. Blanco has a show-stopping array of tequilas and mescals. I counted 40 but am having trouble counting after a few of those happy-hour margaritas. Jessie, who manages at The Henry, possesses a wealth of cocktail knowledge, and he raves about Blanco’s bespoke drinks and old favorites made with fresh squeezed juices and mixes. I can’t wait for Jessie to walk me through the tequila lineup at this new watering hole.

Bespoke cocktails with freshly squeezed juices; sign me up!

I could go on and on about the menu and how excited I am to be able to walk to this cantina, but I will leave something to the imagination. It’s always five o’clock somewhere, see you there.


Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Currently he works for CH Projects managing the pool and Beginner's Diner at the Lafayette Hotel. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He also owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesuppper and read all his stories at www.oliveavenuesupper.comHave a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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