By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 14, 2017 at 1:07 PM

It's been just over three weeks since Cantina moved into the space at 1110 N. Old World 3rd St. that formerly housed Matador. The new bar and restaurant is not only settling into its space, but pushing out an evolving menu of tacos, burritos, fajitas and loaded nachos, along with a complementary cocktail program.

"Right now, we’re starting with a smaller menu and really honing in on the execution," says Chef Jonny Hellenbrand, who leads the team at the Cantina kitchen. "But we’ll be expanding our taco menu and adding a number of new items over the next few months."

We got a look at some of Cantina's top offerings. And here are seven good reasons to check it out.

1. Smothered burritos

"Everybody loves a burrito smothered in cheese," notes Hellenbrand. And he does have a point.

Burritos are stuffed with refried beans, rice, corn, pico de gallo, cheese and your choice of beef chicken pork or steak ($10-12).

2. Walking Tacos

Among menu items at Cantina are walking tacos made from layers of Fritos, ground beef, housemade pico de gallo, queso and cheese ($5.95).   

"This is our ode to childhood memories," says Hellenbrand, "being at high school football or baseball games with bags of Fritos filled with toppings. It's so simple, but delicious."

3. Fajitas and $2 Tacos

Fajitas featuring chicken or beef with red, yellow and green peppers and red onion come out to your table sizzling with tortillas and a side of rice and beans ($14.93 or $16.97).

And, if you’re looking for your tacos on the cheap, head over to Cantina on Tuesdays and Thursdays (except during Bradley Center events) when they’re just $2 each all night long. Fillings include options like jerk chicken, ghost pepper chicken, carnitas, brown sugar pulled pork and veggie options like three pepper and potato hash with red potatoes, corn pico de gallo and avocado (normally $3-5 each).

4. Four hot sauces

"It’s cool go to a barbecue place because you have a choice of sauces and can dress your meat however you want," says co-owner Bobby Wiltgen. "We took that idea and applied it to hot sauces, which are great on almost everything we serve."

Among the choices, you’ll find:

  • Diablo: This one's for the chile-heads; expect a tomato-based sauce with the burn of ghost pepper.
  • Caliente sauce: This is the standard hot tomato-based sauce with habaneros and a touch of smoke.
  • Cantina sauce: This one's for folks in the middle; it's a riff on verde with a tomatillo base, jalapeno and serrano peppers.
  • Salsa Suave: If your tongue smolders at the thought of hot peppers, this is for you; it has a smoky flavor with a touch of umami and the slightest touch of heat.

5. 100 tequilas and a tequila old fashioned

Cantina boasts a collection of over 100 tequilas, including higher end sipping varieties like Milagro Unico, Classe Azul and Jose Cuervo La Familia.

And yes, there are margaritas, as well. Choose from frozen in flavors like peach, blue raspberry, strawberry and lime mixed with Sauza Tequila, as well as hand-shaken with your choice of tequila.

And if you’re looking for a less traditional way to consume your tequila, try it in Cantina’s tequila old fashioned. Cantina also serves a classic Wisconsin-style brandy old fashioned and a peach brandy old fashioned, if you prefer.

More of a beer lover? The bar stocks standards like Miller Lite and Spotted Cow, as well as craft options Lakefront Shop beers as well as selections from City Lights, Good City, MKE Brewing and Ale Asylum.

6. Local Art

As Cantina settles in, local art by a variety of local artists including Jimmy Cha Cha and Britt Musial is also slated to become part of the space. Plans include murals on the columns in the dining area as well as a variety of pieces decorating the walls.

7. Night life & sports

Cantina also offers a variety of weekend specials including Milwaukee deejays and beer pong on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 10 p.m. Guests can enjoy $3 bombs, fireball shots, Modelo and Miller High Life tallboys.

Cantina is also the only bar on 3rd Street with NFL Ticket, so stop over and watch the game while enjoying food and drink specials. UFC matches are also broadcast on a regular basis.

Cantina is open Monday through Thursday 4 to close, Fridays 4 2:30 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The kitchen is open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 on weekends. For more information, visit

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.