Lunch Hotspot: Little Water Cantina

Mexican classics with a little local flair.

You know you’ve hit culinary rock bottom in Seattle when you’re craving Mexican food — and all you have is a box of frozen burritos and the desperate wish that Taco Bell delivered.  Well, Upper Eastlakers, fear not.  Little Water Cantina has heard your appetite’s cries for help.  

Little Water Cantina opened in May 2011, in a gorgeous spot that overlooks Lake Union. The kitchen crew, led by Chef/Owner Shannon Wilkinson, dishes up their inventive fusion of traditional and contemporary Mexican food.  Patrons chow down on Wilkinson’s exotic — yet familiar — south-of-the-border creations in one of the most sustainable restaurants on the West Coast. Many ingredients are locally sourced, and the interior is furnished with reclaimed wood and lit with LED lights.

Now, meet the Torta Shop at Little Water: the Cantina’s mouth-watering response to Eastlake’s lunchtime cravings. The shop takes the cantina’s innovative energy and condenses the dinner menu, with a low-key lunch of tortas (Mexican sandwiches) for residents of, employees in and visitors to the Eastlake area.

Though the menu offers a limited selection of tortas ($815), the flavor profiles are far from ordinary.  Wild boar, Pacific Ling cod, and Draper Valley chicken spring to life atop Macrina Bakery’s ciabatta-style Giuseppi rolls. The party continues with ingredients like grilled pineapple, pickled organic sweet peppers, smoked onions, and a myriad of sauces.

In particular, the carnitas ($10) epitomize Little Water’s modernist take on conventional Mexican flavors, as cola-braised pork shoulder combines with grilled honey crisp apples, cojita cheese and cilantro. If you’re feeling extra gutsy during lunch hour, ask the server to make your torta “ahogada” (or drowned) by adding spicy red three-chili sauce.

When you want to loosen that tie and let your hair down, the restaurant has you covered with its extensive drink menu, featuring more than a dozen varieties of aged tequila that would impress even the most sophisticated of connoisseurs. So stop dreaming of that XXL Chalupa.  Head towards Lake Union and nom on a Little Water torta.  Your tastebuds will thank you.

Little Water Cantina | 2865 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle | (206) 397-4940