I had so looked forward to the opening of the Santa Fe Mexican Grill & Cantina in Edmonds.
I kept watch over the summer as the space formerly occupied by El Puerto near the downtown fountain underwent a major conversion. Brown paper covered the windows, and a sign said the new restaurant would open soon.
Santa Fe opened Nov. 18 after six months of top-down renovation that included new plumbing and electrical systems, a new bar and changing out the interior seating and decorations.
I will preface my comments about the restaurant with two caveats. When writing dining reviews, it’s good practice to give a restaurant about six months of shakedown time, allowing it to get its culinary sea legs.
If you’ve ever known anyone who owns, manages or works at a restaurant, you know what a demanding and frenetic business it is. Getting all the pieces of cooking and serving to run smoothly can be like putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Second, my friends and I went there on Dec. 26, important because the place was absolutely jammed. Who wants to cook the day after Christmas?
There are no dinner reservations, so you take your chances on having to wait for a table. (Through the luck of the draw, I didn’t have to wait.)
The staff obviously had its hands full dealing with a packed house. So I was surprised when one of the servers, without being asked, plunked down a much-appreciated appetizer: tortilla chips with a dip of diced avocado tossed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime ($7) as I waited for my friends. When they arrived, they agreed it was a wonderful introduction to the meal.
My friend Barbara Purrington ordered chicken enchiladas ($14). The chicken, she said, was especially tasty.
Mike Forrester ordered a fajita burrito ($18.95) with chicken, sauteed with bell peppers and onions. He dispatched it so thoroughly and with such quick efficiency he could have been appointed a member of the Clean Plate Club on the spot.
I wanted to try something different, so I ordered the coctel de camarones — shrimp, avocado, onions, tomatoes and cilantro in a tomato broth ($18).
Restaurant manager Ricky Bobadilla said the dish draws on one of the traditional dishes found in his father’s former neighborhood in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The server said it is served cold, warm or hot. I opted for warm, but to my taste, it was in the cool range and would have benefited from the serving temperature being warmer. I also found the shrimp a little tough.
And since readers have asked me to include such information in our reviews: Yes, there are vegetarian options.
Our biggest complaint, and one you’ll find in online comments as well, was the noise. It was impossible to have a conversation. It was so loud that as soon as we finished our meal, we paid the bill and adjourned to a nearby coffee shop where we could sit and talk.
Bobadilla said he’s aware of the noise issue, and that it has since been addressed. Sound pads have been installed in the dining room and some sections are being added under the booths to help absorb sound. “We noticed a big difference during the lunch rush,” he said.
The business also is beefing up its online presence, with more information on the Edmonds location to avoid confusion with sibling eateries in Shoreline, Totem Lake and Renton Highlands.
At the Edmonds restaurant, the seating layout best accommodates groups of four, possibly up to six. “To be totally honest, we’re not ideal for big groups,” Bobadilla said.
He said plans already are under way for some additions, including once-a-week tequila tastings, extended summer hours and specialty menus with more seasonal offerings.
“It’s been an amazing welcome,” he said. “There’s absolutely been a buzz. We’re super-grateful.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
Santa Fe Mexican Grill & Cantina, 423 Main St., Edmonds, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 425-245-7916 or go to tinyurl.com/FBSantaFeEd for more information.