Astoria, Mexican, Restaurants
Jul 19, 2017

Get To Know Fresco’s Cantina – Mexican Food in Western Astoria

There’s a new Mexican restaurant in western Astoria – Fresco’s Cantina.

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Photo credit: Fresco’s Cantina

In our Fourth of July fireworks roundup, one of our listings was a post-Macy’s fireworks party at Fresco’s Cantina, a new Mexican restaurant in western Astoria (AKA “Westoria”). They occupy the old Bear Restaurant space, which, by the way, was the home to WHA’s second anniversary party. Ah, memories…

A Little Background

But back to Fresco’s Cantina. We wanted to learn more about them, so we reached out to the restaurant’s owner, Brian Martinez, for more information. The first thing we asked was about the origin of the name.

El Fresco means the ‘Fresh One’ and has been my nickname since my college days at LeMoyne College in Syracuse,” explains Brian. “My fraternity brothers called me that as a term of endearment because I was very witty and always had a comeback—almost 90% of people today know me as El Fresco; it has been a nickname that has stuck with me.”

He adds, “I wanted the restaurant to be homey and cozy, and that’s why I gave it the personal touch with ‘Fresco’s Cantina’—it’s my bar, my cantina… welcome to my cantina!!”

Brian opened Fresco’s Cantina with plenty of experience under his belt. He runs another restaurant that he opened in May 2015 in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx, called Travesias. “It’s a Latin fusion concept that is the first of its kind in the area, incorporating and mixing together various cultures under one roof,” Brian remarks. “Travesias has been doing very well and has received recognition in publications like Thrillist, the NY Post, Edible Bronx, and has welcomed guests like Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Prior to that I managed and consulted for restaurants throughout New York City and worked for two major liquor distributors doing marketing for their portfolios.”

Choosing Astoria

As usual, we love to ask new businesses to the neighborhood why they decided to open in Astoria. Brian is pretty excited to be here, and while he started out with a different goal—to open a second location for Travesias—he is delighted with the way things turned out. Here’s more of the story:

“I was looking into Astoria because it is an up-and-coming neighborhood that is very close-knit and culturally diverse. I thought it would be a perfect place for a second Travesias,” he explains. “Unfortunately, I didn’t like the spaces I was finding for it. I did come across a space which I loved and saw potential in, but for another concept I had been playing with and wanted to develop—Fresco’s Cantina!”

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Photo credit: Fresco’s Cantina

He continues, “So far the response from the neighborhood has been GREAT! We are in a more residential area, off the beaten path, and locals didn’t have that many food options around here, so they are happy to have us close to home. The amazing food, delicious drinks and exceptional service has also won over many of them and they are now regulars.” Freco’s Cantina opened on May 25th of this year.

Food, Drink, and Design at Fresco’s

As for the food and drink offerings, they prepare what they consider to be Mexican food that is both authentic and modern. In Brian’s words, “You may be familiar with one of our dishes but we might introduce it prepared in a different way or fuse with the flavors or ingredients another country, creating an amazing dish that surpasses expectations. Think of us as ‘Mexican reinvented.’” They offer a huge variety of tacos, fresh Peruvian green rice and Cuban black beans, and delicious desserts. “And don’t get me started on the Margaritas!” he exclaims. “We offer over 15 flavors, all made with fresh purée done in-house—that makes all the difference.”

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Photo credit: Fresco’s Cantina

As for the interior design of the space, Brian was the creative force behind it. “It is beautifully decorated and has a rustic look and feel with a mix of wood and stucco walls, arched windows, bronze sconces, vintage mirrors and decor,” Brian explains. “The space provides a very cozy environment with close attention to detail. We have a nice big bar with 10 seats that provides for a great bar/happy hour crowd, and although we do not have outdoor seating as of yet, we have a HUGE garage door that gives guests an outdoor feel. Two gender-neutral bathrooms make waiting for a bathroom minimal to none.”

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Photo credit: Fresco’s Cantina

They offer Happy Hour from Monday to Friday from 3-8pm. Look for familiar theme nights like Mojito & Margarita Mondays, Taco & Tequila Tuesdays, and the like. They are currently are open from 3pm to midnight most days (closed on Mondays) but plan to eventually open for brunch on Sundays, and lunch come September.

Standing Out in a New Neighborhood

Because competition can be quite fierce in Astoria and throughout NYC, it’s important to know what makes a restaurant stand out among their peers. The location is one—as Brian said before, there really aren’t that many restaurants in the immediate area, so they definitely stand out just on this detail alone. Brian elaborates, “What also helps us stand out is that we aren’t your typical Mexican restaurant—people are loving our fusions and dish presentations. We have been doing great on Yelp with a 5 star rating and we have been getting a lot of return customers who recommend us and bring their friends.”

Brian leaves us with some final thoughts: “We take food and service very seriously; our goal is create memorable experiences for our guests. We want to ensure they are happy with everything we have to offer them.”

Thanks for sharing with us a little about Fresco’s Cantina, Brian. Welcome to Astoria!

Fresco’s Cantina, 12-14 31st Avenue, Astoria. 347-808-7338
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About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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