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HUSSONG'S CANTINA

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Mandalay Bay

3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-533-0123

website

$20-$30

Sun-Thu 11am-11pm

Fri-Sat 11am-midnight

Mexican

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Enjoyable and affordable Mexican food.

Where is it?

At Mandalay Bay on the South Strip.

What kind of food is served?

All the usual suspects with lots of build-your-own options.

What is the atmosphere like?

A bit chaotic.

How is the service?

Fantastic.

What are the prices like?

Higher than normal for a Mexican restaurant but cheap for The Strip.

What else do I need to know?

They claim to have invented the Margarita.

What's the bottom line?

Really good Mexican food although they don't quite take the crown for Best Margaritas.

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FULL REVIEW

Years ago I remember writing a review of a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas and saying that it was difficult to find affordable, really good south of the border food in the city, especially on The Strip. But these days it seems that you can't throw a dead chupacabra without hitting one with the moderately priced (and quite good) Diablo's Cantina at Monte Carlo and Tacos and Tequila at Luxor being standouts.

The latest entry is Hussong's Cantina in the Mandalay Place mall between Luxor and Mandalay Bay. I'm going to let go of the fact that it is in the space that once housed the beloved Chocolate Swan even though I still miss their chocolate covered caramels.

Hussong's is based on the famous Ensenada joint that has been in business since 1892 and claims to be the place that invented the margarita.

The restaurant/bar is a sliver of a place with a brightly colored decor that covers the walls with movie posters, photographs, and random Mexican stuff (think sombreros). It's chaotic but not necessarily in a bad way.

The menu is wide ranging covering all of the cuisine's basics and then some. Appetizers include sopes, taquitos, quesadillas, and more; there are a few soups and salads; the opportunity to build your own nachos from more than a dozen choices of toppings; and tacos, burritos, tortas, and enchiladas among other entrees.

We had to start with a margarita - it was part of the job of course. They were good, flavorful, and satisfying but I have to say that I prefer the ones at Tacos and Tequila, which are probably the best in town.

Speaking of best in town, Hussong's claims to have that in the taco category. That's a bold statement so I decided to give them a whirl. You can order several already designed versions including chicken, pork, steak, goat meat, pork rinds, lobster, and more but you also have the choice of building your own. There are more than a dozen different choices of meat and toppings and I decided to go with one each of the chicken, steak, and carnitas with pico de gallo, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and a blend of Mexican cheeses on top. Served in warm, soft corn tortillas with rice and beans on the side, they were fantastic with my favorite being the pork - it was almost like a Mexican version of pulled BBQ style, but with delicate seasonings that made the flavors of the meat really stand out. I haven't had every single taco at every single restaurant in town but I have to say that these were best I have ever tasted so there's that.

Other entrees we sampled including one of the massive burritos, served with your choice of meat and fixing stuffed into a flaky, almost sweetly spiced flour tortilla. It was delicious although entirely too much food for one human being so consider sharing.

Prices are higher than this type of Mexican food will usually cost you in restaurants where you live, but not at all out of line for a Strip restaurant and downright cheap compared to most in the neighborhood. You can easily do it for under $20 per person, excluding tax, tip, and the thirteen margaritas you may be tempted to order.

The service was terrific throughout the meal as well - very friendly and attentive.

Where there used to be a dearth of Mexican restaurants there is now a plethora and if they continue to be as enjoyable and budget conscious as Hussong's Cantina, I say bring them on.

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