Café Cantina
By YP Contributor

Boom goes the Taqueria

“Boom!” That’s how Cantina unexpectedly started from the first day for owners Marianne Larochelle and Serge Landau. “Boui boui” is Marianne’s expression for the lively, convivial atmosphere the couple wanted and did conjure at their California-inspired, Mexican taqueria restaurant, which they opened on du Centre Street in Pointe St-Charles in 2010.

“We wanted to create a Mexican restaurant with a Californian freshness and health-consciousness and without the greasiness of some of the Mexican food you find there.” Says Marianne.

If the “insta-boom” signified that Serge and Marianne had acted well on their intuitions, research and creative aspirations, they were not aware of the subtleties of running a restaurant. “The first year was really hard, it took off so fast and we were disorganised. We definitely took a while to find our rhythm.”

We wanted to create a Mexican restaurant with Californian freshness and health-consciousness, and local ingredients. - Marianne Larochelle
Café Cantina Taqueria, Mexican, cafe, restaurant

The Curves of Intuitive Management

What likely saved them was their love for unpretentious, colourful, and affordable food, their ability to experiment with flavours, and their previous experience working as a creative team. Marianne is from Québéc, Serge is from Paris, and they have known each other for a long time. The entrepreneurial couple did consider opening a French restaurant in California, where people go gaga for French cuisine. They lived in California for 6 years until they moved to Montreal to realize their vision, which had been gradually forming.

Cantina is both carnivore and vegan friendly, reflecting the eating habits of Serge and Marianne respectively. They serve meat and the all-vegetable versions of Mexican staples people have come to crave, such as burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. Once inside, you will observe Serge’s meticulous artistry in the open kitchen, and you will taste the results; your dish is arranged so that every bite is optimized for full flavour, freshness, and value.

Serge and Marianne source their produce from the Atwater market and buy organic products whenever possible. Their daily specials feature seasonal ingredients and fulfill Serge and Marianne’s creative and experimental instincts.

At Cantina, without any previous restaurant experience other than his French culinary heritage, Serge is the “solid kitchen person”, and Marianne takes care of the social aspect. Marianne also likes to bake. Before the restaurant’s opening, she imagined being able to do more experimenting with baking. “I had fantasies of being able to make all kinds of cakes—different ones every day—but people came back for the same things!” Marianne’s bestselling sweets are her coconut macaroons.

Café Cantina Taqueria, Mexican, cafe, restaurant

How to Surround Yourself With Art

Serge used to be Marianne’s agent, as she is a photographer and a yoga teacher. Marianne specializes in artist photography. Though she has put her photography career aside to focus on the restaurant and yoga, she still “loves to be surrounded by artists; there is so much talent in this city,” says Marianne.

Every three months, Cantina features a different artist. The walls at Cantina are also densely mural-spangled. Intricately painted floor to ceiling pieces are collaborations between three different local Anglophone artists, whom Marianne remarks, “as Anglos have a hard time finding opportunities for exposure in Montreal.

Café Cantina Taqueria, Mexican, cafe, restaurant
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