Arriving at Santiago’s Cafe Restaurant for the first time I thought I was going out for Mexican food.
I later learned that Santiago’s is actually a South American restaurant. It just also happens to serve some Mexican dishes.
Actually, it happens to serve quite a variety of other dishes that aren’t from South America or Mexico either.
(Santiago’s also have Thai and Indian items on their menu which makes me wonder if they might be having a bit of an identity crisis.)
When you first walk into Santiago’s Cafe Restaurant, you discover a very colourful, vibrant and cheery decor – consistent with many Mexican restaurants.
There are multi-coloured lights strung about the place as well as the odd fake parrot hanging from the ceiling.
There’s Mexican music playing in the background and even a “Corona St.” sign to suggest you have arrived in Mexico.
Taking a look at the menu you will notice some Mexican favourites including quesadillas, burritos, black bean soup and tortilla chips with salsa.
Famished when we arrived for our late lunch, my two dining friends and I quickly ordered the “Tortilla Chips With Fresh Salsa, Sour Cream & Guacamole” ($7.95) to tie us over.
The salsa and guacamole tasted pretty fresh, and the chips were okay. I wouldn’t say the chips and salsa were the best out there (not sure if any of it was made in house) but they were good enough to take our initial hunger pains away.
I was the only one who decided to order an appetizer before our entrees and this was the only diversion I made from Mexican food for the day.
As I mentioned, you will find A LOT of other non-Mexican items, including the “Cup of Seafood Chowder” (6.95) on Santiago’s menu.
I decided to try the chowder based on the recommendation of our server.
She said it was the best she’s had anywhere and I wanted to see if she was right.
The chowder was very hearty with carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, corn, halibut, salmon and shrimp in it.
I really enjoyed all the flavours and the chunkiness to the chowder. It was definitely a great chowder and up with some of the best ones I’ve had.
The only minor negative thing I’d say is that for $6.95, the cup was a bit small.
Anyway, moving on to the entrees. When I’m out for Mexican food I often like to order a Chimichanga or Enchilada but as they had none of these on their menu, I went for the “Burrito” ($11.95).
It was a decent size but I thought the taste was a bit underwhelming.
The burrito was filled with black beans, corn, red onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and “spices”.
Lots of ingredients yet there really wasn’t anything in it that stood out flavour-wise. If anything it felt like it was missing something.
I had my friend (and Mexican food connoisseur) Mark try it and he agreed. We also both thought it a bit weird that they put mushrooms in the burrito… I didn’t know they cooked with mushrooms in Mexico??
While I was taking a break from my burrito, Mark was spooning out some of his “Black Bean Soup” ($4.95 cup, $8.95 bowl) for me to try.
Again, nothing really exciting here for me. Maybe I was missing something?? I know what I was missing, and that was refried beans. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find them on the menu. :(
We also tried the “Veggie Quesadilla” ($12.95) and it was pretty good. The portion size was right for the price.
It was still a little odd with the mushrooms and zucchini in it (never had these ingredients in a quesadilla before) but it was still my favourite of the three entrees we tried.
Our dessert turned out to be the highlight of the afternoon.
The “Santiago Sundae” ($8.95) was big enough for all three of us to share and we gobbled it up quite quickly.
It was a fairly simple dish – vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and caramel sauce.
What made this dessert so tasty were the sprinkled pecans and cashews and the big fluffy tortilla bowl it was served in. Highly recommended!
Overall I would have to say our experience at Santiago’s Cafe was okay.
The service, though very friendly, was not overly attentive, especially given we were the only ones in the restaurant.
If you come here looking for Mexican food, the menu might confuse you. I’m still not sure why a South American/Mexican restaurant has Thai and Indian food on the menu.
However, if you’re looking for a wide variety of food you can get at okay prices, along with a kid friendly and Mexican themed atmosphere, this could be your restaurant.
(Though you may also want to check out Puerto Vallarta Amigos, Cafe Mexico or La Fiesta Cafe.)
For us, if we venture out to Santiago’s Cafe restaurant again, it will be to try their “Amazing $10 Breakfast Menu”. In the meantime, I wonder what it would take to convince the chef to add some refried beans or tacos to their menu….
IN A NUTSHELL…
Santiago’s Cafe Restaurant
Address: 660 Oswego St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 388-7376
Hours: Breakfast: Mon – Fri 8 am – 11 am
Sat & Sun 8 am – 12 pm
Lunch & Dinner: Open until 8 pm every day
Price: $$ ($10 – $15 per entree)