By Bennett Vest
Cali-n-Titos brings energy to the restaurant experience. Since it opened in 2006, people can expect exceptional quality each time that they eat there. They are known for their Latin American cuisine. They are located on Lumpkin Street and Cedar Shoals in Athens, Georgia. According to a Red and Black article, the owner, Rubio, wanted the restaurant to feel like a bodega. In short, dining at Cali-n-Titos is more of an experience rather than just going and sitting at a restaurant. Both restaurants achieve this. The one on Lumpkin achieves this through the all-around atmosphere. There is a wrecked boat on the outside of the restaurant that invites people to come in and party. Along with this structure, they also have an area for children to play on the playground. While the parents are up at the front ordering the food, the children can play outside. Once people are done admiring the outdoor decorations, the inside is even more impressive. The lights in the building are made up of aluminum cans. It feels like you have been transported across the border to another country.
The Lumpkin Street location is impressive, but the real party is at the location on Cedar Shoals. The outside looks like a regular cantina, but it is far from that on the inside. On the inside, a dance floor and screen can be found showing old Hispanic movies. Along with this, a plane is positioned inside the restaurant. The line up to the bar is similar to a line you would see at a grocery store or bodega. An additional commonality at either location is beating the crowds to the restaurant. If you do not get there early, you could be waiting a while along with many other customers. However, the staff will assist you in any way once you reach the register. The unique experience continues with seat yourself dining as the staff provides all food and drinks to your table. The one beverage you retrieve independently is water. The water adds to the experience as it comes out of a hose that drains into a garbage can. This additional detail continues to enrich the experience as it compares to retrieving water from a reservoir that has been collecting fresh rainwater in the Latin American heat.
To feel this energy I went to the restaurant on Cedar Shoals. From the moment I entered, I felt the passion that Rubio wanted in opening the restaurant. I was blown away by all of the decor lining up the central and south American countries. Each country is represented by its respective flag. I also noticed that it is more than just an entree restaurant since it offers an assortment of drinks and desserts. When I arrived, the line took about twenty minutes to order from. The menus were hung from a hanger on bungee cords in a fashion similar to a clothesline outside of a house. This caught my eye as I was waiting to order. To start I wanted to try the chips and queso. It had an interesting flavor profile in the way they utilized garlic and salt on top of the chips compared to regular salt. The queso had the same flavor combination. The tang of the queso left me wanting more. Shortly after finishing the appetizer, the main course arrived at the table. I ordered a chicken quesadilla. The quesadilla was cut into fourths with an impressive garnish of parsley adorned on top, but this was only the beginning. The inside of the quesadilla has not only cheese and chicken but beans as well. To me, it added a different flavor profile and a texture that made the quesadilla something that I would order again. The quesadilla is a staple of the restaurant and its unique craftsmanship alone would bring people back. In addition to the food, the staff motivates me to come back because of their charisma and excitement for the business. The restaurant is best described as a great place to go to with a young family or to hang out with your friends. There are aspects of the restaurant that encompasses all generations, and it is a staple of the Athens community.
Click below to view restaurant website and full menu! https://www.athensmenus.com/cali_n_titos_menu.pdf
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