You know that moment, right? There you are in Croatia, enjoying the sights and sounds of Dubrovnik, and suddenly you ask yourself, “I wonder if there is any good Mexican food around here?” What?! Inexplicably, your culinary wanderlust refuses to be sated. You’re craving Mexican food, and you want it right now! Thankfully, someone close by has anticipated your need.
The Chihuahua Cantina Mexicana was easy to find, right across from the Hotel Zagreb in Dubrovnik. We parked on the nearest main road, ulica kralja Tomislava, and enjoyed the short walk to the restaurant along the šetalište kralja Zvonimira. Note to those spending most of their time on the Stradun in the old town, this meal will require a short drive into town.
I was born in Southern California, grew up in Arizona and lived in Texas for 6 years before moving to Montenegro. I also spent much time travelling around Sonora, Mexico in my twenties. I know my Mexican food. I have my preferences, and I’m not always easy to please. Well, I’m easier to please than my wife anyway, but that’s another story! Her mother is hispanic and is known for making killer homemade chicken enchiladas. Spoiler alert: Chihuahua Cantina Mexicana exceeded my expectations.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting when we walked through the doors. We were greeted at once by bright colors and décor that immediately evoked a Mexican aesthetic. The ambience was matched by the cheerfulness and attentiveness of the servers. We surveyed the menu and saw everything we expected: enchiladas, burritos, taquitos, and even dishes made with local fish. My mouth was watering. I remember being very hungry and still amazed that we had found a Mexican restaurant in Dubrovnik, Croatia! My eyes wandered all over the menu in excitement.
We started with tortilla chips con tres salsas. It came with a tomato-based salsa that was a tad on the sweet side, one that was hot (too hot for most of the kids at the table, but I liked it), and a creamy cheesy concoction that complemented the other two well. I chose the enchilada de camarones (shrimp enchilada) for my main course. It was exactly what I wanted, a neatly wrapped tortilla barely containing the oozing cheese and shrimp inside. My wife ordered a simple burrito con carne and was not disappointed either. The kids ordered taquitos and flautas. Their empty plates bore witness to their enjoyment of this unexpected treat.
Now, let’s be clear: I would not go so far as to say that Chihuahua Cantina Mexicana serves up “authentic” Mexican fare. However, except for very rare cases, I wouldn’t say that about Southern California, Arizona or Texas either. America is well-known for adapting international culinary offerings to its peoples’ peculiar palates. Texas excelled at that task so well that a brand new cuisine was born: Tex-Mex. Maybe we need that kind of distinction here. Chihuahua Cantina Mexicana is a satisfying fusion of Croatia and Mexico – dare I say Croat-Mex? If I turn that into a hashtag like #CroatMex, do you think it would trend? I don’t know, but I do know this: the next time I’m in Dubrovnik, there is a better than average chance that I will be visiting this cantina again for more of this delicious hispanic-inspired comfort food.