Diego’s Cantina

At the request of  Fort Bend Food Blog reader Erinn W., we went to check out Diego’s Cantina in Sugar Land.  I had driven by Diego’s many times and was wanting to try it, so Erinn’s email gave me just the push I needed.

The Place

Diego’s is located on the third floor of a low-rise building near the intersection of Highway 6 and Fluor Daniel.  The first floor is occupied by Genghis Grill, while a spa takes up the second floor.  The entrance to the building is not obvious from the parking lot, but it is located to the left of Genghis Grill.  You can take the stairs if you want to burn a few extra calories or you can ride the elevator.  The wall of the elevator facing toward the parking lot is glass, so that’s always a hit with my kids.

Building exterior

When you exit the elevator, you step into a very inviting waiting area, then through a doorway into the restaurant.  There is another small waiting area with a couch inside the restaurant.

View from the elevator

Waiting area near the elevator

Interior waiting area

The bar area is immediately to your left as you enter.  The lights in the walls and behind the bar change colors periodically, which the kids also thought was cool.

Bar

The dining room is located past the bar and is comfortable and richly decorated with Mexican art.  The best part, though, is the view of the lovely green space and waterway separating the restaurant from the Hyatt Place hotel.

Dining room

View from our table!

Dining room decor

We weren’t sure what the appropriate dress was, so we called in advance.  They told us that anything was acceptable, but I was glad that the boys and my husband had put on collared shirts and that I had on a cute top with my capri pants.  The atmosphere is slightly upscale, so even though I wouldn’t dress up to go here, I also wouldn’t have felt comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts.

The Food

Make no mistake — Diego’s is not Tex-Mex.  It bills itself as a “Mexican kitchen and tequila bar,” and that’s an accurate description.  There are some familiar items on the menu like ceviche, fajitas, tacos and enchiladas, but the cheeses and sauces are different than what you’ll find at your local Tex-Mex joint.  The menu was full of interesting choices, and it took us a long time to decide.  While we browsed the menu, we snacked on the tri-color chips and red and green salsa that was brought to our table.  The salsa here is served warm, which isn’t my favorite.  The red salsa had a smoky flavor more than it was spicy.

Chips and salsa

We started with a bowl of chile con queso, which is made with white cheese and has tomatoes and peppers mixed in.  The cheese was nice and creamy, and we enjoyed it a lot.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for it to congeal, which made it harder to eat.

Chile con queso

The kids and I ordered soft drinks, while my husband tried the Entourage margarita, which had Avion anejo tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh squeezed lime and agave nectar.  He said it was not as smooth as he would have liked.

Entourage margarita

So, when the time came to order a second drink, he tried the Riazul Al Gusto margarita, which the restaurant was featuring as a special for $8.  It was available with fruit flavoring, but he just ordered a regular margarita with the Riazul Reposado tequila.  He liked this one much better.

Margarita with Riazul Reposado

After much debating about what we wanted to try, the kids finally decided on the chicken tenders and the cheese quesadilla.  The quesadilla was also available with chicken, but Kid #2 stuck with plain cheese.  Other menu items were tacos, enchiladas and fried red snapper.  Kids’ meals are served with two side dishes, and kids can choose from macaroni and cheese, french fries, rice, and beans.  Mine both chose fries and macaroni.  The “fries” were really more like roasted potatoes.  They were tasty to me, but the kids weren’t wild about them.  The macaroni was made with white cheese and was creamy and delicious.

Kids’ chicken tenders with “fries” and macaroni

Kids’ quesadilla meal

There were several choices for enchiladas, so I decided to ask the waiter which one he recommended.  He said his favorite was the Enchiladas Mexicanas, which the menu describes as “marinated and sauteed in a three chili sauce filled with your choice of queso fresco or shredded chicken topped with queso fresco, red onion and crema mexicana.”  He did caution me that these would not taste like Tex-Mex enchiladas I was used to.  I ordered one chicken and one cheese.  The meal was served with refried black beans and rice.

I really enjoyed these.  There wasn’t a lot of spice — though I don’t mind spicy — but the sauce had just the right mix of heat and sweet.  The red onions added a nice texture and crunch without being overpowering.  I liked the cheese enchilada a bit better, but I think that’s likely just because I prefer cheese enchiladas over chicken generally.   The chicken enchilada (on the left in the photo below) was stuffed full of meat, so it was filling.  I thought the presentation of the refried black beans was interesting.  We all thought it looked like a scoop of chocolate ice cream at first.  To me, the beans didn’t have much flavor and the rice was pretty standard Mexican rice.

Enchiladas mexicanas

My husband ordered the Pollo a la Naranja (orange chicken).  The menu on Diego’s website doesn’t show this dish, but it sounds similar to the Pechuga de Pollo Achiote listed there.  It was a boneless chicken breast topped with thin tortilla strips and covered in a red sauce that was infused with an orange flavor.  It was also served with refried black beans, but his dish came with white rice.

The flavor of the sauce was different, interesting and delicious.  It had a bit of heat, a bit of smoke flavor and the tanginess of orange without any of the sweetness.  My husband was disappointed to find that the chicken breast itself was a bit dry/overcooked.  He commented that the flavor of the sauce on a succulent chicken breast would have made for a truly fantastic meal.

Pollo A La Naranja

Our server told us that all of the food is made in-house, including the tortillas, the macaroni & cheese, and the kids’ chicken strips.  It was clear that a lot of love and care went into the preparation of our dishes, which were all flavorful and beautifully plated.

Dessert choices on the evening that we visited were cheescake, rice pudding, banana cake and churros.  Our family has a weakness for churros, so that was the immediate consensus.  Each of the three had a different filling — Nutella, strawberry marmalade and cajeta — and they were covered with chocolate and caramel sauces, along with a raspberry coulis.  All I can say is, “Yum!”  The churros were heavier on the cinnamon than the sugar, so they were not too sweet.  Also the cocoa or dark chocolate in the sauce had a nice contrasting bitterness to all the sweetness of the other ingredients.  I thought the strawberry one was particularly enjoyable, as the berry flavor was not too strong, but was a nice surprise when I bit into it.

Churros!!

Our server was friendly and helpful, but the service was disappointingly slow given that there were never more than 2 other tables filled at any given time.  Our meal lasted almost 2 hours, which was stretching it a bit for the kids.  I understand that everything is homemade and they don’t make it until you order it, which is fine.  But our drink glasses often stayed empty, and I didn’t feel that the server came to check on us as often as he should have, particularly given the delay in getting the food to the table.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Diego’s Cantina was a nice change of pace from “the usual” Tex-Mex.  The atmosphere was lovely and relaxing, the staff was very friendly and, on the whole, the food was enjoyable.  It’s unfortunate that the slow service put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm.  Nonetheless, while it won’t be at the top of my to do list, it was good enough that I’d be willing to return and give Diego’s another chance, as I know even the best restaurants can have an off night.

Have you tried Diego’s?  What did you think?

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