Review: Rosalita's Cantina in Des Peres
If you think no one parties in the County, you’ve clearly never been to Rosalita’s Cantina in Des Peres. Located in the cavernous space at 12796 Manchester Road that once housed Casa Gallardo, Rosalita’s is a beautiful place to kick back with a giant, frosty margarita, Mexican fare and endlessly entertaining people watching.
Exhibit A: the 50-something couple enthusiastically kissing outside the front door in broad daylight. Exhibit B: the table of adults going full YOLO over giant frozen margaritas, gossiping about their children and making summer plans to boat at the Lake of the Ozarks. In case I’m giving you the wrong impression, families and young professionals also come in droves – the place is always packed.
The large space is carved into more intimate nooks, creating a sophisticated interior that mostly avoids Mexican restaurant cliches. Leather seating and sun-aged wood create a rich, earthy feel with potted plants and flowers providing bright pops. Twinkling star lanterns illuminate the large wraparound bar centered on spinning margarita machines, while a large alcove on the opposite wall houses a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The interior is lovely, but you should absolutely request to be seated outdoors. The patio is where all the action is. Take your pick from a mix of small and large tables of varying heights and two reservable cabanas framing the bar. The entire walled-in space is designed to protect you visually and aurally from the parking lot just outside.
A fireplace made of light brown stone accented by blue and white tiles, along with powerful heat lamps, can add warmth on chilly spring evenings, and giant fans provide relief on scorching summer nights, significantly extending patio season. String lights and pulsing Latin beats enhance the mood.
The margaritas are solid. Made with tequila, citrus rum, triple sec, lemon and orange juice, Rosa’s Favorite house margarita is neither too sweet nor too sour. A few top-shelf and specialty margaritas are also available, including mango, pomegranate and blueberry, as well as the Sparkling Margarita, which comes with a small bottle of Korbel Brut. A typical list of beer and wine is also available, as well as a small selection of other cocktails. The sangria was unfortunately a miss, with the addition of peach schnapps giving the drink a cloying, medicinal edge.
The menu features Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, massive burritos and quesadillas. Higher-end dishes like shrimp diablo, pepita-crusted salmon and pan-seared Oaxacan grouper are also on offer, meaning you can take your night cheap and cheesy or a little more upscale.
Overall, the food is fairly standard. Chips and salsa are free. Nachos are always a good idea with margaritas, and the ones here are generously topped with chile con queso, pico de gallo, guacamole and more. One small gripe on the chips: They’re on the delicate side, no match for thick guacamole or a bounty of toppings.
Standouts include the empanadas: fried masa dough filled with barbacoa beef, cheese and black bean pico de gallo. The street tacos and chimichanga were also good – again, nothing unique, but they get the job done if you’re craving Tex-Mex. Service is friendly but a bit uneven. You may have to be patient, depending on how busy the restaurant is.
Food and service aside, the real draw of Rosalita’s is snuggling down in a comfy bench seat on the patio with an oversized margarita, melting away the stresses of the day.
Stephanie Zeilenga is a longtime contributor and critic to Sauce Magazine.