Velvet Cantina

Velvet atmosphere, polyester food
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GOOD SEATS, LAME EATS Our reservation was late, the table was still dirty when we sat down, utensils never showed until after our food, the margarita was more Rita than tequila, and the chile rellenos were not. But the electric sex glow of crimson velvet and soft candle lighting, our cozy round booth, and the vivacious Mission crowd begging for more sour-mix-satiated margaritas all made the Velvet Cantina enduring, if not enjoyable. Besides, any bad mixed drink can be fixed with a double shot splashed with the aforementioned overly-sweet concoctions.

So I was forced to eat my friend's carne asada — which was divine — because my chicken mole was so sweet it tasted more like chicken morsel, and we mixed our own libations tableside. I guess participating in the process is part of the fun — isn't that why fondue is the phenomenon it is? — but this was something else. I most definitely won't go back for the grub, but I won't hold the bartender's heavy pour against the indiscriminate agaves nectar. The red walls were more scrumptious than the food, and while many palates might want to boycott most of the cuisine, the asada and nachos are enough to keep you sane.

Plus, booze is still booze, from whatever bar you choose. The vibrations from the excessively loud music had me strapping on my party shoes before our second round, and from our window side booth, I eventually found myself loving this place. Then again, tequila has that effect on me.

VELVET CANTINA Mon.–Thurs., 5–10:30p.m., bar open until midnight; Fri.–Sat., 5–11 p.m., bar until 2 a.m.; Sun. 5–10:30pm., bar until midnight. 3349 23rd St., SF. (415) 648-4142, www.velvetcantina.com

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