Wine Dine and Play: Nueva Cantina

Nueva Cantina

September 2018 / October 2017 review  /  April 2017 review 

More Than Just That Mexican Place
St. Petersburg, Florida USA
Cuisine Style: Mexican
Average Price: $
Overall Rating: 3/5
Dined in: April 2017
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:

Nueva Cantina Zomato rating:

Nueva Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Executive Chef:
Chef Paul Daubert (CIA)

Restaurant Owners:
Louie Spetrini

Día de Muertos or The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that combines traditional native beliefs with Spanish Catholic beliefs and celebrates dead family members through a series of events that take place on November 1st and 2nd every year. When you walk through the front doors of the Nueva Cantina, you will see that it is more than just a typical Mexican place. They have several mural paintings of skulls, calaca figures, and Lucha Libre wrestlers with a specials menu next to them. Though this death festival has been a tradition in Central America for nearly 3000 years it has gained world attention and more recognition thanks to the 2015 James Bond film Spectre where the Día de Muertos parade is featured in the opening scene. A great introduction indeed to this Mexican place.

The day was defiantly not dead as my wife and I walked into Nueva Cantina for a meal that you usually don’t visit a Mexican restaurant for, brunch. Of all the Mexican and most other Latin cuisine restaurants I’ve eaten at, this would be my first brunch experience. We sat at one of several long high-top tables near the bar after the entrance way, and to the opposite side of us was the main dining room with regular tables and booths. The restaurant used to be called El Gallo Grande, and in 2016 reopened to become Nueva Cantina.

Authentic Mexican cooking has remained virtually unchanged by the outside world, and that being said there is a great difference between authentic and Gringo Mexican food. What you know as enchiladas, fajitas and such is considered ‘poor mans food’ in Mexico, and with the poor and lower class populations it is consumed, but they like the higher class, the palate is much different.  Nueva Cantina is a relaxed, and very affordable neighborhood spot that caters to the ‘poor man’ favorites, as well as exciting contemporary higher, classed Mexican cuisine. 

The chef, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America blends the authenticity of creative urban poor or ‘Tex-Mex’ styles, with the contemporary flavors that distinguish the food of native Mexico. The tortillas are hand-pressed, the guacamole is made to order, and the margaritas are thoughtfully crafted with bold flavors from their larger tequila list. They feature homemade, authentic sauces and locally sourced ingredients with many texture and flavors. Also, Amazon Prime Food Delivery is coming to St. Petersburg very soon and Nueva Cantina is one of 10 restaurants that will be part of it. Damn, why didn’t I buy Amazon stock years ago!! Speaking of tequila they're a 4 known stages when drinking as Nuevo says:
  1. Happiness
  2. Sadness
  3. Lust
  4. Lack of Inhibition
Nuevo Menu:
    • Starters
    • Burritos
    • Tacos
    • Salads
    • Tortas
    • Fajitas
    • Entrees
    • Regional Favorites
    • Sides
    • Nueva Postres (Desserts)
    • Sunday Brunch

Daily specials:
Monday kids eat free
Taco Tuesday
Margarita Wednesday
Fajita Thursday
Saturday all day happy hour
Sunday Bloody Mary/Maria bar

As we sat the restaurant was half full, but getting busier as time went by. I took advantage of the Bloody Mary bar which was set up on the long high-top table next to us. You place your order, go over to the table with an empty glass and choose from over thirty ingredients to make your own incredible Mary. From there they deliver your alcohol and put the drink together. As a warning, don’t put too much in your glass, because you have to save room for the alcohol and tomato juice. My wife ordered a drink from the bar, while I picked out my Mary toppings. You can also order bottomless mimosas on brunch as well.

Bloody Mary Bar
When you dine for brunch you can mix and match ordering from the regular lunch menu as well, so we started with the Nuevo sampler of fresh guacamole, queso dip, and a nice thick salsa made from scratch instead of from a bottle like the Gringo restaurants serve. Also just like Besito Mexican Restaurant in Tampa they have a table-side guacamole presentation at a market price point. The sampler also came with homemade tortilla chips, nothing from the bag or Sysco truck. Another outstanding difference from Gringo to authentic Mexican was evident on their appetizer list with Peruvian style ceviche and fried plantains for example.

My wife ordered the lunch size of the Pollo Milanese dish, rubbed in panko bread crumbs, pan fried and topped with a tomatillo and ranchero style salsa, then covered or should I say melted with a real Mexican cheese, served with some rice and refried beans on the side. The beans were also dried and cooked the old fashioned way, not from a can like you buy at the supermarket. This was a nice spin for a Milan style dish which is known to - usually, but not always - contain pork. When you see this regions cuisine and other northern regions of Italy, you will see heavy pork influences whereas in the southern part of the boot you normally do not. To also see this dish in a Mexican version being served is yet another example of aristocratic and defiantly not ‘poor mans’ Mexican food. The European nobility of the styles pushes to the surface like no other. 

Pollo Milanese
I have always been a fan of Benedict's for brunch or a nice breakfast, and will most of the time not deviate away when I see them on a menu. From the other 400+ reviews here on Wine, Dine, and Play, when you run across breakfast or brunch articles, most of the time, that is my go to. Another first was a Mexican version of this very French-Dutch style dish. The Eggs Benedicto, served on a jalapeño cheddar biscuit instead of a muffin, topped with ham, poached eggs, and a Tabernero Hollandaise. Tabernero is translated as bartender or barman, and most importantly a winery in Peru known for its cabernets and Italian style Piscos. Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy produced in the winemaking regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The Pisco brandy added a sour flavor to the hollandaise sauce, so most likely it was used in place of the vinegar or lemon juice when cooking the egg yolks before adding the clarified butter. 

Eggs Benedicto
The presentation of both dishes was well conceived and put together, wonderful layers of texture in the Benedicto, with the subtle sour of the yolk mixture, spice from the jalapeño biscuit, and the egg. My wife’s dish was the same way, crunching down onto the crispy panko and the liquid from the juicy chicken does not do justice to the flavors in my mouth.  Also not forgetting the excellent tomatillo flavors and the rich cows milk Mexican cheese.  

Though we had no room for dessert this time, a few items peaked our interest. Yes, like most Mexican restaurants they offered churros and ice cream but also a guava and cream cheese flan which looked like an exciting try in the future, as did the Key Lime pie brûlé (brûlée - to burn or scorch) and the signature dessert of S’morchos for two. This dish had fried tortilla chips with cinnamon, sugar, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, a dulce de leche cream and a raspberry sauce topping with caramel. Holy moly!

Please see these guidelines for Tipping in Restaurants and on following proper etiquette, customs, cultures, and avoiding assumptions when you dine out.

Other noteworthy Mexican cuisine articles and restaurants similar to Nueva Cantina:
Mexican cuisine is primarily a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking with European, especially Spanish, with elements added after their conquest of the Aztec Empire in the sixteenth century. The staples are native foods, such as corn, beans, avocados, tomatoes, and chili peppers, expanded greatly after the European occupation which introduced rice, cheese, and domesticated animals. African and Asian influences were also introduced into the mixture during this era as a result of African slavery in New Spain and the Manila-Acapulco Galleons. Over the centuries, regional cuisines based on local customs reverted back to ancient ways while incorporating the new European foods, and areas such as those in Oaxaca, Veracruz, and the Yucatán Peninsula took on a new identity which resulted in traditional Mexican cuisine being inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010.

Benji’s Cantina An innovative approach to Tex-Mex cuisine in Austin, Texas
Besito Mexican Restaurant Creative Mexican-blend eats chain; reviewed in Tampa, Florida
Carmelita’s Mexican Restaurant A casual local chain for traditional meals in Pinellas Park, Florida
Grand Hacienda Mexican Cuisine A recreation of Mexican comfort foods in St. Petersburg, Florida
Güero's Taco Bar Landmark Mexican restaurant on Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas
Hablo Taco Mexican-blend joint known for tacos and margaritas in Tampa, Florida
Nitally’s A Fusion of Thai and Mexican Cuisine from a husband and wife team in St. Petersburg, Florida 
Poppo's Taqueria Gourmet organic Taqueria Street Food, City of Anna Maria Island, Florida
Wipeout Bar and Grill Surf shack theme with California and Mexican cuisine in San Francisco, California

See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary

A few St. Petersburg reviews and articles on Wine Dine and Play:

Innovative Finer Seafood & Raw Bar 
At the Sundial 
Rustic New American Fare
 A top 100 on Wine Dine and Play
Colonial Portuguese Fusion with tapas

Other Florida favorites:

Native American Cuisine w/Barbacoa Grilling
St. Pete Beach
Rooftop Artisan Fusion Bistro
Italian-inspired seafood at the Opal Sands Resort

Final notes, review basics, observations, and more pictures:

Most reviews are subjective, depending on the writer; but they should also be responsible, and respectfully written, upholding the truth, and accurately conveying the experience to the best of the writer's knowledge, even if it includes metaphors the restaurant may not like to read about. My ratings are by the stars I award (from 0 to 5). The rating is calculated on a point accumulation of six separate factors based on individual experience. They include wine and other beverage selections, plate presentation, customer service, restaurant or café ambiance, food quality, and wow factor. To see more details of this rating list, read this article:

Overall from this experience, and the score factors outlined in the ‘about page’ section, based on my individual experience and rating, I give Nueva Cantina a 3 out of 5 stars, meaning that they exceeded my expectations and were far above the average dining experience of most restaurants.
Scores are detailed in the factor chart below:

Formula Factor Conclusions and Overall Ratings
Max Points Possible:
Total Points Awarded:
Total Points deducted:
Food quality
Plate presentation
Customer service
Alcohol and other beverages
Total regular points awarded
Total percentage — less the Bonus


“Wow” factor BONUS
Total bonus percentage


Total percentage and bonus for a final star rating


Stars Awarded (see chart below)
0 - 5

**A full break down and explanation of the observations and point disbursement is available in the linked article above. To receive a detailed copy of your score, feel free to contact me at any time and I will provide it to you.**


Overall Star Rating:
3 of 5 Stars: 
81% Rating with a 3 point “wow” bonus
Far Above the Average Dining Experience
Corkage fee’s:
This Restaurant does not list any corkage fee’s however, most American restaurants charge 
$25.00 per bottle
Restaurant style:
Cuisine Style:
Allergen or dietary accommodations: 
Farm to Fork, Gluten Free, Organic, Pescatarian, Vegetarian
Not Required, But Recommended
Dress code:
Casual attire
It’s Florida, everyone wears flip flops
Child policy:

The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a kids menu or cater to them; however, for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended that kids not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette. 
If not then:
Hire a Babysitter! 
Place for foodies, Trendy, Great bar, Great outdoor dining, Good for special occasions, Rustic, Great brunch, Tourist grabber, and a Neighborhood Gem.
Cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Public lot Street meter parking
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Nonsmoking restaurant, and nonsmoking patio
Patio or terrace:

Food Prices 
(excludes, alcohol, taxes & 20% gratuity’s)

$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 (inexpensive)
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 (moderate)
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 (pricy)
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 (expensive)
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 (very expensive)

**Currencies reflect the world’s major travelers, restaurant, or wine connoisseur’s**

United States Dollar (USD)
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
European Union (EUR)

 Alcohol prices:

$8.00 USD

Nueva Cantina:

1625 4th St South
St. Petersburg, Florida 

Contact Information: 

Restaurant website:
Maître d or host:
+1 727-851-9579
Serving hours:
Eastern Standard Time
(GMT, Zulu, or UTC - 5:00)
11:00 am - 10:00 pm

Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Email Contact:
Social Media 
Facebook link                

The worlds best restaurants is a subjective list of who is writing it and changes on a regular basis. The Wine Dine and Play best experiences are based on my highest rated stared restaurants, meaning that the visit was an outstanding or extraordinary experience. From cafés, chains, mom + pops, hole in the walls, to fine dining including a few Michelin spots. Visit the Top 100 page to see the entire list.

A few to tease you with…

Eclectic tavern for Surf 'n' Turf  in Griffin, Georgia, USA
Nautically themed eatery with crafted cocktails and raw bar
Sarasota, Florida, USA
New American Cuisine, tapas, and exotic cocktails
St Pete Beach, Florida, USA

Other Pictures:

Calaca murals
Lucha libre wrestler murals
Dining room, picture courtesy of Nueva Cantina
Bloody Mary Bar
Bloody Mary from the Bar
Starter platter

“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)
Who is John Galt?


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