Tio Loco's democratic mix

December 14, 1990|By Mike Giuliano

Tio Loco's Cantina

Where: 1061 S. Charles St.

Hours: 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 1 p.m.- 2 a.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

Menu: Mexican bar menu featuring chili and burritos.

Credit cards: MC, V.

Call: 752-2258.

Head far enough into South Baltimore and eventually you'll reach Mexico, right? Well, maybe not exactly, but bar hoppers in Federal Hill can now hang their hats at Tio Loco's Cantina.

This Mexican-themed bar opened last weekend at the site of a former bar, the Cross Street Annex, and retains some of its lighting and decor. But enough has been done by way of Mexican rugs, painted window signage and such to give the place a new identity.

You'll hear the taped south-of-the-border brassiness of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass as you gulp a shot of Tequila, but this being an eclectic era, you'll also hear the no less charged (and convicted) James Brown shouting out Christmas tunes.

The inaugural happy hour here was kind of strange, and a reminder that Tio Loco's Cantina is on the border between white-collar Federal Hill and blue-collar South Baltimore. As if the juxtaposition of expensive suits and work-stained jeans weren't demographic contrast enough, you can easily guess who was resurrecting high school Spanish to order cerveza and who was drinking American.

That's the sort of bar hopping, democratic mix the new owner is shooting for.

"I see all the bars in Federal Hill as complementing each other," says Tio Loco's owner Steve Mazza, who got his own Mexican fixation while working as a bartender in San Diego. "I want this place to be different from the others because it's Mexican, but I want everybody to feel they can stop in however they're dressed."

So how Mexican is it? Well, there are 10 Mexican beers available. There are such standard offerings as Corona, Tecate and Dos Equis, but also a less often found dark beer called Negra Modelo. The bar offers 25 varieties of Tequila, which you should definitely not try all in the same evening. There also are margaritas, though as yet no wines. Drink specials, including $1.50 Mexican beers on weekends, are a decent deal for the peso-conscious.

A limited bar menu of chili, burritos, chips and the like will soon be expanded with the addition of fish tacos -- si, you read it correctly. The sampled Southwest chili proved hot enough, though a tad watery. But hey, it was the first pot of chili ever served at this cantina.

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