It’s theoretically possible for a place to have enough taco and tequila spots, but Colorado Springs remains far from the limit. Or at least that’s what Jacy Olmos and Craig Dominguez banked on when they opened Westside Cantina in the former Wobbly Olive West/Happy Belly Tacos this past July. The place has a relaxed vibe, from the big patio to the clean-lined interior to the bar TV that plays lucha libre matches. Also, unisex bathrooms are a bonus.
Regarding the tacos, each runs $4 to $5.50, which is steep, but they’re bigger than expected — we find two tacos to be a light but satisfying meal. So while it’s easy to spend bigger here, it’s not mandatory.
Over two visits, we sample all nine varieties of tacos they offer, and while some jump out as favorites, our overall impression is pretty solid. At the top of the taco menu, there’s ground beef with cheese shreds, lettuce and tomato, which is as white American family dinner as can be and not bad for it. Steak tacos, on the other hand, rate pretty splendid; a little cumin-heavy, but in a way that’s Tex-Mex, not out of balance, thanks to the tang of tomatillo-avocado salsa and raw onion.
Barbecue pork carnitas don’t so much hit barbecue notes, but they’re tender and meaty, with a little queso fresco and chipotle slaw for smoke. Mango mojo chicken, however, has powerful garlic and what tastes like clove in the background, which works well with fruity-not-sweet mango habanero salsa that has some warmth, but not too much. The grilled shrimp taco’s fresh and light thanks to a moderate amount of that same salsa paired with tender shrimp that carry just the right amount of grill love.
Four vegan taco options — fried avocado, chipotle portobello, chile lime tofu and jackfruit barbacoa — all rate strong, though our favorites are the creamy-acidic interplay in the fried avocado taco and the cumin- and chile-heavy jackfruit, which makes us think of Indian food under its refreshing cilantro-lime slaw and fiery jalapeño slices. Finish with churro donuts, which are more donut than churro, topped with buttery salted caramel and a hint of cinnamon.
As for tequila, the cocktail menu is 15 options deep, and the bar’s packed with tequilas and mezcals aplenty, including a special edition Westside Cantina blend of Maestro Dobel tequila. We take a Skinny Paloma and a Queen Bee to go. The former’s mix of Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila with agave, grapefruit juice and soda water sips nice and tart with enough sweetness to balance, all without muting the tequila’s earthy notes. As for the Queen Bee, a play on a Bee’s Knees, the mix of Pueblo Viejo blanco, mezcal, bitters, agave and lemon layers lots of smoke on a bittersweet finish that we enjoy but want to sip slowly.
On-site, the Westside Classic margarita blends a staggering 4 ounces of Corralejo silver tequila with lime and Grand Marnier, which sips complex and aggressively boozy, a three-drink portion for starting and finishing an evening with one glass.
The Prickly Cactus, a basic Pueblo Viejo-Cointreau marg with prickly pear, goes down easier with non-overwhelming sweetness. They’re not the most delicate, refined margaritas in town, but they’re great with the tacos Westside Cantina serves. We may not have space for more tacos and tequila in our stomachs after visiting, but there’s plenty of space in our hearts — and if the locals we’ve seen in the spot are any indication, we aren’t alone.