Mexican standoff

Bar for the three dudes: chicken tacos with rice and beans at the Cantina Los Tres Hombres.

Bar for the three dudes: chicken tacos with rice and beans at the Cantina Los Tres Hombres.

Photo By Lauren Randolph

Cantina Los Tres Hombres

926 Victorian Ave.
Sparks, NV 89431

(775) 356-6262

We had a coupon—it was as simple as that. We wanted to dine with a friend of ours somewhere close, quick and filling before my husband and I headed off to nervously watch the high school football playoffs. More precisely, I wanted to eat something hot and spicy to get my blood going and hopefully ward off the chill in the coming hours. The coupon was “buy one meal, get one free.” And so we decided to go to Cantina Los Tres Hombres.

The best thing about the décor is the garage doors. Yes, garage doors. In the winter months, they serve as normal walls. In the summer months, however, they can be opened with the flick of a finger, and suddenly the place fills with fresh air and sunlight. It’s nice. In truth, though, that’s really the only original thing about the place. The rest is what one would expect from a chain cantina. (There’s another Cantina Los Tres Hombres in Reno—with a similar menu, but different owners.)

We were greeted heartily at the door and taken to one of the too many booths and tables. The place is large and airy and somehow too open—coziness is lost somewhere up in the rafters. But it’s clean, and the service is good. Our server was professional, friendly and informative. He answered our questions as he took our orders and even made alternate suggestions and gave helpful hints, which we appreciated. The rest of it wasn’t his fault.

As much as I was hoping to be surprised by the drinks and food, I was not. The margaritas ($4 during happy hour) had that cloying, industrial taste. Now, I admit that I’m finicky about margaritas. And I never have gone in for too much sweet. Also, I spent last summer in Central America sipping drinks that knocked my socks off, so it figures that I might be disappointed. Our friend took a sip and said it was fine. Unspectacular, yes, but certainly serviceable.

The food, too, could be described as serviceable. My husband had the crab enchiladas ($10.99) which, while a tad over-salty and seemingly made with crab from a can, were nevertheless hot and filling. The beans and rice were, well, beans and rice, and the starter salad was a small plate of various veggies that just managed to stay crisp under a heap of Ranch dressing. Our friend had the carnitas—pork fajitas ($10.99)—which she ate most of, but didn’t quite finish.

“Too fatty,” she said of the meat.

My own meal could be described as sufficient. I was initially distraught that the only burrito on the menu with no meat also came with no cheese. I might not savor the taste of pork, but I haven’t completely lost my mind. I said as much to our waiter, and he assured me that I could have as much cheese as I pleased on whichever burrito I ordered. And so, happily, I chose the burrito con legumbre ($9.99). Again, the beans and rice were standard, but the tortilla was hot, soft and covered in yummy Jack cheese. The side of sour cream, also, was enormous. The unfortunate part was the vegetables. They simply hadn’t been cooked enough, most likely in an effort to salvage their crispness. But by the time I cut into them, the broccoli wasn’t even tepid and the carrots still too hard. I doused it all in very good salsa and filled up anyway, because, when all is said and done, it was nevertheless what we had come for: a filling meal in a decent, convenient location.

Cantina Los Tres Hombres offers coupons but few surprises. It is, if nothing else, predictable. If that’s the meal you’re looking for, you can find it every time. For our part, our team didn’t win later that night, thus nixing our need for somewhat humdrum Mexican food until at least next season.