El Cazador del Mar

With 94 different bottles of tequila, the entire staff at El Cazador del Mar — from general manager Alex Castillo and chef Roberto Lopez on down — spends a lot of time educating people about the various types of tequila. And that’s before you even order a drink.

“We like to give people a little tequila tasting,” said Castillo, “like a mini-seminar.” He’s not exaggerating. Sit down at the bar when this affable host is around, and you’re likely to wind up with four or five slender shot glasses, each with a sip of a range of El Cazador’s many fine tequilas. (See the Top 5 on this page for our picks from their selection.)

Their education philosophy seems to be working. During a recent weekend they sold out of not one, but two of their most expensive ($40/shot) tequilas. Margaritas are, of course, popular as well. “We use classic recipes, but with fresh ingredients,” said Castillo. On the menu you’ll find the expected Cadillac (with Grand Marnier and Patrón versions), along with concoctions like the Chapala (grenadine and fresh lime juice), Cielito Lindo (with blue curacao), and the Tamarindo, made from whole tamarind pods that are lovingly cooked with sugar to add a tart kick.

It is a bit surprising to wander into what appears, on the surface, to be another run-of-the-mill Mexican joint, only to discover what care and passion has gone into everything. Not only are the sangria chasers and margarita ingredients made from scratch in-house, practically everything else is, too. “When you order guacamole, we go in the back and start chopping avocados,” said Lopez.

But when you learn that Castillo and Lopez have worked together for more than six years, and met back when Castillo was running the kitchen at the Wine Cask, it all makes sense. “We have a good foundation,” Castillo said. “We both graduated from culinary school — but we want to do home cooking.” With home-style techniques, a chef can’t rely on sleight of hand to dress things up, so Lopez and Castillo are very conscious of quality, using only the best ingredients from local purveyors.

All the fancy tequilas aside, what keeps people coming back to this De la Guerra gem is its homey, comfortable atmosphere. “I feel like this is my house,” Castillo said with a warm smile. “When you come in, I want you to have the best time at my home.”

El Cazador del Mar, 731 De la Guerra Plaza, 965-5606.

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