As the East Village boosts its dining and drinking establishments, Coa Cantina is a solid contender as one of the best in the district with its fresh Mexican menu and tequila drinks to wash it down.
Coa Cantina is located at 425 E. Grand Ave. in a century-old building. Built in 1880 and formerly known as Norden Hall, the 280-ton building was moved 10 years ago from four blocks away to its current location. After that, a wine bar was in its place before owners opened up Coa Cantina two years ago. Coa Cantina is named after the “coa” tool, which is used to break up agave plants for tequila.
Coa Cantina touts itself as “Des Moines’ Finest Tequila Bar.” If quantity of tequila is any indicator, they might be right, as there are about 125 tequilas in stock.
What do you make with tequila? Margaritas, of course. The freshly made Coa Margarita didn’t taste overly sweet or too tart. It’s made with Blanco tequila, handmade orange curacao and fresh lime juice. An original flavor cost $11. Flavored with fresh juices costs a buck or two more.
Their most popular higher-end tequila sold is the Clase Azul for $35. Tequila prices range from $6 to a whopping $450 for a Clase Azul Ultra Anejo. Here’s your chance to try it without paying the retail price of more than $2,000 a bottle.
Mexican food is the ideal choice to pair with a margarita or a shot of tequila. With five different kinds of salsa, plus queso and guacamole, you can get your chip on. The nacho platter was brimming with cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and tomatoes. The chips are fresh and crispy with just the right amount of salt. A basket of chips and salsa is $4. Or choose from tacos, nachos, tortas, burritos, starting at $4 for a taco. The menu is just right — not too extensive, but what they do offer, they do it up right. Entrees cap out at $12.50, so you can spend more on tequila.
If you’re not a tequila fan, choose a Mexican beer or lager on tap, including Modelo, Negra, Pacifico and Dos Equis. They also have some local brews, a couple dozen other liquors, as well as creative non-alcoholic drinks — and not just a boring club soda lime concoction.
The building inside is original brick with exposed pipes and wood. A patio overlooks Grand Avenue on warm evenings. Upstairs, it looks like a huge dining room with tables and a few comfy chairs. There’s not a ton of kitschy beer signs, which lends to a more relaxed vibe. On select nights upstairs, you can participate in trivia, bingo and other games, while enjoying drink specials.
Happy-hour specials are Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. and include half-price drafts and $7 frozen margaritas. Other daily specials vary, including $3 for Modelo on Mondays. The place is open every night of the week and offers specials on Sunday or Monday nights for industry service workers.
Next time you’re in downtown East Village and are searching for tequila — and chips and salsa — try Coa Cantina. ♦