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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

New Cozumel Cantina & Grill on the River opens in Jefferson

Plus, Plaza Maya Mexican Restaurant is opening a second location in ... Kanawha City!


Salmon and Sweet-Chili Shrimp from Cozumel Cantina & Grill on the River
Salmon and Sweet-Chili Shrimp from Cozumel Cantina & Grill on the River






The new Cozumel Cantina & Grill on the River has opened in spacious new digs where Mountain Pie on the River used to be between South Charleston and St. Albans, which is the nicest way possible to say “Jefferson.”


Gringo Burrito from Cozumel Cantina

And while I’ll get to the new restaurant’s food and service in just a minute, it really doesn’t matter. This place is absolutely going to make bank.


Why? It’s a Mexican restaurant, which the masses love. It has tons of space, including multiple dining rooms and bar areas, both inside and out. And it’s located on the riverfront, with a large outdoor deck that will be super popular from spring through fall.


That’s several ingredients for success right there, so as long as the food and service are decent they’ll be fine. And the food and service are far above decent.


Nearly a year after signing the lease – and after months of renovations – the new space has been spiffed up nicely and looks much fresher than the tired-looking spot Mountain Pie abandoned in 2022.


The parking lot was full when I pulled up this past Saturday evening, and the place was hopping inside, but there were still plenty of tables with more people strolling in by the minute.


I tucked into a riverfront table and started sipping a ginormous house margarita (smooth and delicious, by the way) while diving into the menu.


There are traditional favorites like fajitas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and the like, although some of them come in more unique combinations than you see at most run-of-the-mill Mexican joints.


There are also a few different options like lobster tacos, Potato Papa Al Pastor (baked potato stuffed with pastor meat, butter, rosemary, black pepper, cheese, onion and cilantro), Pescado Apache (marinated spiced tilapia on a bed of broiled cactus) and the signature Cantina Molcajete (grilled chicken, steak, shrimp and chorizo with roasted peppers, potatoes, green onions, cactus, jalapeño, avocado, roasted corn cob, queso Oaxaca and housemade molcajete salsa).


Desperate to eat healthy (ish?) after the dining out extravaganza that was Charleston Restaurant Week, I was leaning toward options featuring seafood and vegetables. I especially had my eye on this grilled salmon and sweet-chili shrimp situation that sounded really nice.


But then I saw a Gringo Burrito pass by my table on the way to another and I went all “When Harry Met Sally” on my server. “I’ll have what she’s having!” Because that sizzling skillet with a cheesy gut-bomb on top was too tantalizing to pass up.


The large tortilla was stuffed with steak, chicken, rice and beans, then topped with crumbled chorizo and grilled chunks of pineapple on a pool of bubbling-hot ranchero salsa.


It was good, but I quickly realized it would be way too much food for me if I tried to eat it all, which of course I was about to do. So I had it boxed up to go (midnight snack!) and caved in to try that salmon and shrimp dish I couldn’t get out of my mind.


Although there was far too much creamy sauce smothering the salmon (which didn’t look at all like the photo the restaurant had teased on Facebook, unfortunately) the salmon underneath it was quite good.


And the shrimp – glistening with a sweet and slightly spicy glaze – were plump and delicious. Like, really delicious. The grilled Mexican corn cob served on the side was a nice touch as well, and I especially liked how it was heavy on grilled flavor and lighter on the goopy sauce that ruins most Mexican street corn.


I couldn’t finish all of that entrée either (Sunday lunch!) but I don’t regret ordering a second dinner one bit. You know, for research purposes.


  • IF YOU GO: Cozumel Cantina & Grill on the River at 5930 MacCorkle Ave. in St. Albans is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, call (681) 265-0412 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

 

Plaza Maya opening second location in Kanawha City


Speaking of Mexican restaurants, popular Plaza Maya in Kanawha City is about to open a second location in – none other than – Kanawha City.


That’s right, the original location at 3112 Chesterfield Avenue (home to the best chicken tortilla soup on the planet, by the way) is currently building out a second location called Plaza Maya II that will open in the old La Caretta storefront at 5790 MacCorkle Ave. SW.


That's right next door to Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse across from the old Kanawha Mall.


There’s no word yet on a grand opening date, but I drove by the new location on Saturday and saw lots of construction activity going on inside.



• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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