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The Church Cantina

Come to Church for Cuban-themed dishes with big flavor

The Cantina Cuban is creating a lot of buzz. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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ANNOUNCER: Open just a few months, The Church Cantina brings Cuban-themed dishes with big flavor to the old Ah Badabing location where they used to serve up big pizza pies. Dutch and Jackie heard big flavor, and came rushing in for a taste.

DUTCH: The interior is funky, fun, and holds an energetic vibe of music, chatter, and the sound of people playing pool in the adjacent room. The menu matches the vibe both in design and selections of Cuban black beans, peppers and mole sauce. After just a few moments through the door, you're all in.

JACKIE: Scary flicks play on the boobtube and the soundtrack is rockin'. I was enticed by the sound of cherry mole-sauced wings and mojo pork cantina bowls, but came in on a Sunday, which had limited offerings. Fear not, those did not disappoint. I appreciate clever monikered plates like The Cure, Want You to Want Me and The Breakfast Club. Ultimately, I had to devour the much buzzed about Cantina Cuban. A nicely toasted hoagie roll is jam-packed with mojo shredded pork and sliced ham that is ooey-gooey with gruyere cheese. Garlic aioli and cumin Dijon tease with pops of flavor throughout. About half-way through, I had to take a breather to let all the deliciousness settle. I did so with a few rounds of skeeball.

DUTCH: The Cuban fare here has a bit of a bar taste to it as well. I started with the Croquetas, which are essentially finely chopped ham mixed with creamy gruyere cheese and then rolled in bread crumbs before being deep-fried into a finger-held goodness. The honey mustard for dipping here includes a nutty cumin addition that insures a uniqueness not available elsewhere.

JACKIE: The Holy Burrito came next and had me saying "Holy cow and Hallelujah!" This behemoth is the size of a baby. Cuban black beans, rice, ghost pepper jack cheese and your choice of beef or chicken is wrapped with love and smothered in chorizo gravy with a side of pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. The leftovers make a fabulous scramble when added to eggs the next morning.

DUTCH: With three breakfast-inspired options available at any time, I grabbed The Breakfast Club. Two pieces of toasted sourdough are filled with ham, fried eggs, cheddar cheese and chipotle aioli. But what really sets this sandwich apart is the caramelized onions and peppers. The smooth and creamy that the eggs and cheese bring are partnered with a jalapeno hit in each bite. Finished off with the smoky flavor of the ham, and this is truly a balanced sandwich. Fair warning however . . . keep the napkins close, this is a messy one.

JACKIE: Aside from good grub, a full bar and skeeball and pool, other fun bar games include a shooter game and counting how many pennies are glued to your tabletop -- $26 by my estimate.

THE CHURCH CANTINA, 2 p.m.-2 a.m., Tuesday-Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday; 5240 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.582.2170 

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