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Just tried Cantina South's new Sunday brunch buffet (Raleigh)

klmonline | Aug 29, 201108:10 PM

I bought a recent Groupon to Sunday brunch at the new Cantina South restaurant in the Glenwood complex that holds Red Room, Draft, The Globe, etc. We went last weekend and it turned out to be their first day offering the brunch, so here are opening day impressions. [Background note... I used to be a tour director and ate more breakfast/brunch buffets than I care to think about. I generally hate them now and I tend to be overly critical, so take that into account!]

The brunch is offered from 11-2. I don't know why we can't get SOMEBODY in Raleigh to open earlier for people who want breakfast food at breakfast time! (Sorry, personal pet peeve.)

They serve alcoholic beverages after noon on Sunday. We tried a frozen margarita (apologies to purists... My SO doesn't like "real" margaritas so I had to compromise). The mix was goopy, sour, and overpowering. I couldn't taste the alcohol. Not recommended. But they have a full bar and many tequilas, so I'll have to go back and try a real drink some other time.

Breakfast items include the usual cook-to-order omelet bar and griddle bar (with the usual stack of premade pancakes and french toast sitting in warming pans. Ugh.) I didn't bother with these, but there was a good selection of ingredient choices for omelets, including chorizo.

A large bowl held a nice assortment of berries, grapes, and melons. An optional sweet dressing was on the side. The fruits were fresh and not soggy. The usual cutting a little too far down into the rind on some melon pieces (have to maximize return on investment for the melons), giving an unpleasant flavorless crunch on some of the chunks. But not a deal-breaker.

The main buffet line more than satisfied me. There was excellent selection and variety. On the unimpressive side was the nemesis of all brunch buffets... slightly undercooked scrambled eggs in a warming pan. Ugh. But there was an interesting and unusual bright red tomato salsa on the side that featured a lot of cinnamon. Not spicy enough for my taste, but a fun curiosity. There was also a huevos Mexicano scramble with a variety of ingredients. But the premade, warmed eggs simply killed any enjoyment for me.

The rest of the foods were tasty. You could grab soft tortillas (taco size, not burrito size) at the front of the line and build your own soft tacos to taste. Or you could just ladle foods onto your plate. A full condiments bar offered toppings such as chopped onions, shredded cheese, salsa, and an obviously house-made chunky guacamole. No complaints.

Meats were well seasoned and tender. There were several cuts and types on offer. My favorite were small marinated steak tips. Food variety included fish, chicken, pork, beef, beans, fried eggs, etc. Bacon was plentiful and had an excellent flavor. Really excellent! But they slightly undercooked it once again to compensate for having it sit in a warming tray. I prefer more crispness.

Another winner for me was a fried potatoes medley. They used many different types and color of potatoes, cut into small chunks. Nice from a visual and taste perspective.

Three desserts were on offer. I didn't try the chocolate cake, although my SO (who is a chocolate fiend) wasn't overly impressed. Lime cheesecake bars didn't have enough sour tang for my preferences. I liked the tres leches cake bars (everything is cut into small squares for easy serving). But the frosting was VERY sweet and you have to enjoy the taste of coconut, as it is very pronounced.

Service was friendly and prompt. Our waitress kept taking used plates away quickly and was smiling and pleasant. When we first sat down, the omelet maker glanced over and saw that we didn't have tableware yet and that our waitress was busy elsewhere, so he ran to get us some setups and promised he would get our server quickly.

The chef/owner(?) came out and spent time at each table to find out what we liked and what needed improvement. He was personable and proud of the food he was serving. He really gave the impression that he wanted to fine tune the buffet to keep improving it as they understood what people wanted. Doing a good buffet is a LOT different than cooking plates to order, and it is always a challenge. I appreciate a restaurant that takes it seriously, and I absolutely make allowances for this being the first day it was offered!

Despite the negative comments included above, we both enjoyed this Sunday buffet and we would go back without the Groupon.

Red Room
510 Glenwood Ave, Ste 101, Raleigh, NC 27603

Cantina South
510 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603

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