Recreo Cantina Takes Community to Heart

by RaeAnne Marsh

“At the end of the day, the community’s going to decide.” This statement by Schuyler Estes, general manager of Recreo Cantina, captures the heart of the transformation of Recreo to Recreo Cantina — because what the community told Estes and restaurant owner Niels Kreipke that they missed was the Mexican food experience.

That could start with guacamole, made fresh daily with pepitas, jalapeno and sea salt adding to the rich avocado, tomato and red onion flavors. Another great starter is the Mexican Street Corn, plump, roasted whole kernels served with a creamy tahini-flavored aioli. And there’s the Queso Fundido, made with carne asada or chorizo, brought to the table bubbling in a cast-iron skillet.

A wide assortment of tacos, enchilada, fajitas and quesadillas includes veggie versions. Shredded and richly seasoned, tinga de pollo is one of the options for both enchiladas and tacos. Birria tacos feature a blend of beef short ribs and mozzarella, topped with cilantro, onions, lime, pickled red onion and consommé.

But again honoring the community input, Recreo Cantina keeps old Recreo favorites on the menu, such as the Peach Chicken Sandwich made with a caramelized peach glaze and mascarpone on a brioche bun.

As the tequila selection shows, Kreipke takes this spirit seriously. Forty-eight selections last month, but Kreipke says he’s aiming for a higher number — and he visits tequila factories in Mexico to personally source the varieties. And among a number of creative cocktails are more than a dozen margarita flavors. 

The restaurant’s charming ambience spills out from the raw wood décor inside to an expansive garden patio profuse with flowering shrubbery and trees — and planters of agriscaping for broccoli, chiltepins, strawberries and other produce that get picked fresh for the kitchen. 

A balcony will serve as stage for DJs or live music. And beyond that, the back part of the patio boasts a large game lawn, fulfilling the “recreo” (“recess”) concept of the name — which, with the swing-style chairs at the outdoor bar and the back end of school bus that juts out of a side wall (where it very practically also hides the electrical equipment), helps create the look of a playground.

Recreo Cantina
28 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler
(480) 590-0009

Birria Taco
Beef short rib, mozzarella cheese, cilantro, onions, lime, pickled red onion and consommé

California Burrito
Carne asada, French fries, cheese sauce, sour cream, salsa roja and guacamole

Recreo Flan
House-made creamy caramel custard

Photos courtesy of Recreo Cantina

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