Food & Drink

Review: Bayside Cantina is an All-Weather Destination

Owner Carlos Cruz’s goal is to attract people for reasons more than the view.
The colorful margaritas lined with salt. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

The building and adjacent patio that house Bayside Cantina in Canton’s Tindeco Wharf development offers one of the most idyllic settings for waterfront drinking and dining in the city. That’s unquestionably an attribute, but one that might come with an asterisk. The two previous restaurant tenants—Raw Bar and Boathouse—struggled to fill the multiple and spacious dining rooms and seemed to be forgotten by customers when the weather was less than ideal.

If the early evidence is any indication of future success, Bayside Cantina, which opened in September, won’t have that problem. During several winter visits to the establishment, we found it to be comfortably crowded, with a warm neighborhood feel and multiple bars. That’s the vibe proprietor Carlos Cruz, who also owns Chilango’s Tequila Bar & Mexican Grill in Fells Point and Carlos O’Charlies in Highlandtown, is aiming for with the new concept.

“We are still trying to figure out how we’re going to make the space work, but it’s a great location,” says Cruz, who used to frequent the popular Bay Café, which preceded the two forgettable followers. “People want to be close to the water.”

But Cruz’s goal is to attract people for reasons more than the view. He’s doing just that with standard cantina offerings like margaritas, tacos, and burritos. While Bayside’s versions of those are quite good—all the food and drinks are made from scratch—its menu excels when you veer off the beaten path.

Take for example the Mescalita, a twist on a margarita that pairs mezcal, sour mix, and caramelized chile ancho syrup to create a smokey, hardy drink. The Bayside Manhattan uses tequila and chocolate bitters, while the Chicha Martini blends vodka infused with cinnamon, pineapple, and peppercorn, plus agave nectar. All are welcome reinterpretations that are made with care by bartenders like longtime Canton staple Kevin Bradley.

The guacamole is made using fresh vegetables and a plate of flautas, which are essentially Mexican eggrolls, and can work as an entree. Steamed shrimp, fried calamari, and crab dip also are available. Along with tacos (carnitas and chicken were the best varieties we tried), fajitas, and some more daring dishes like the Bistec Mexicano—a grilled flat-iron steak with jalapeños, on- ions, and peppers in a spicy tomato chili sauce—there’s a shrimp salad sandwich, perhaps a subtle nod to the Bay Café.

Cruz plans to build an outdoor kitchen to better service the tiki bar and plethora of outdoor tables that overlook the marina and Patapsco River. In the summer, he wants to host bands and occasionally a deejay outside. That should draw even more flip-flop wearing folks for whom nothing beats hanging out with a cold drink under blue skies. Cruz hopes that what they discover at Bayside Cantina will keep them coming back even when the sun sets on summer.