WESTERLY — If she had her way, Frances Medina would walk up to each table and check with diners how they ended up making the most of their meals.
Medina is the head chef at Surf Cantina, Westerly’s new Mexican fusion cafe, which opened on Canal Avenue in December and the place pasta dishes and fish and chips are served alongside tacos and heat, made-to-get corn tortillas.
“I like watching people enjoy the foodstuff I’ve well prepared,” said Medina, who ran the kitchen area at Rio Salado in Mystic prior to joining Daniel Van Kruiningen and Kenneth Fontaine in their most recent culinary experience. “It is really my passion.”
Van Kruiningen and Fontaine are no strangers to the regional cafe scene. Van Kruiningen, who ran Margaritas Mexican Cafe in Mystic for a range of ears, also opened a number of spots at Mohegan Sunlight. Fontaine owns the Norwich Bowling & Leisure Centre.
In 2016, the pals combined their qualified backgrounds with their adore of food stuff and drink and opened Chapter Just one Food stuff & Drink in Mystic. In 2018, they opened their second restaurant in Guilford, on the Guilford Eco-friendly. Surf Cantina is their hottest collaboration.
“It is really a hybrid cafe, a neighborhood eatery with a actual coastal vibe,” stated Operations Manager Justin Cerro of Stonington, who has overseen the opening of the cafe that is situated in a making with a storied previous.
The moment the household of the legendary China Village, the room was also occupied by 84 on Canal and just before that Señor Flacos.
“We opened up the facet of the setting up and set in huge bar home windows,” Cerro stated. “We gave the place what it warrants.”
In awesome weather, he reported, the clear garage doors will roll up and be “open to the outdoors.”
As much as opening an additional Mexican restaurant downtown, when Wendy Carr’s preferred Amigos Taqueria Y Tequila is just few doorways away, Cerro explained Surf Cantina is a distinctive type of restaurant.
“Confident, we have tacos and tequila,” he said. “But if I preferred conventional Mexican meals, I’d be the initially 1 to stroll appropriate down the avenue to Amigos.
“We are extra global … or new American. Street meals. A cantina.”
Medina, who lives in Ledyard with her wife Sara and their 9-calendar year-aged daughter, Avery, explained she’s designed a sort of “Mexican fusion menu” for the restaurant.
“It’s a Baja design and style,” she included. “We have great burgers, much too, and salads, in addition to tacos.”
Medina explained she wanted to “give a nod” to Westerly and Westerly traditions so she labored really hard to make a novel area dish.
Her soupy soup, a chowder loaded with domestically produced soupy, clams, grilled corn and product, has become a signature dish, she explained.
“I knew I wished to have a chowder on the menu,” she said, “but I knew I wished it to be diverse.”
Although the soupy soup may be tasty and popular, Medina claimed it is really her octopus and chorizo that has come to be the most well-known item on the menu.
“I was astonished,” Medina reported about the creation that features crispy octopus, chorizo, white sweet potato and cashew salsa macha. “I can’t keep it in the cafe.
“I realized octopus would be popular,” she included with a chuckle, “but I did not notice how common.”
Medina explained she prepares the dish by poaching the octopus in purple wine then rolling it in gluten-no cost bread crumbs just before it will get fried.
“We have a good deal of gluten-cost-free items,” she mentioned, “and a ton of vegetarian solutions, far too.”
Medina, who was born and raised in New York, claimed she inherited her adore of persons, food items and cooking from her mom, a appreciate she would seem to be passing alongside to her daughter.
“She’s obsessed with baking,” Medina stated, “but she isn’t going to like to evaluate.
“I preserve telling her, ‘Avery, when you’re whipping up a dish, it can be 1 issue,” Medina mentioned with a chuckle. “But when you’re baking, you have to measure.”