Article by Ric Holmquest
Photography by Justin Fox
You’ll encounter the sweet smell of Juan and Roberto’s culinary efforts just prior to opening the front door. You’re greeted immediately by a host or hostess with an engaging smile. You’ll take notice of the special gold jumbo margaritas and large platters of food on many of the tables you pass as you navigate your way to be seated. Your mouth begins to water. You’re getting ready to take a journey south of the border and the Cano family has set the table, making all preparations at the Cancun Mexican Grill and Bar.
The Cancun success story starts in 1996 when Juan Cano came to Cedar Rapids to share his mother’s traditional and authentic Mexican recipes. Juan informs “I had a dream of bringing my family’s recipes to America and am so thankful that my three brothers have joined me to make it all come true.” Brother Lupe Cano adds “all the family members have found their place within the staff, each bringing their strength and expertise to the mix. We truly care about each other and the results show in our food and our customer’s experience.”
Roberto Cano, Cancun’s head chef shares “we came from a poor family and our parents raised us to stay closely together. I’m really fond of my Mom’s cooking. She shared a lot of her experiences with me. I still call her from time to time to get her ideas and recipes”. Carmen Cano can usually be found in the Cancun’s kitchen when she’s visiting Cedar Rapids. Roberto adds, “I make it as comfortable and fun as possible while setting a good example. We work well as a team, often poking fun while encouraging each other to get things done quickly.”
Adrianna Cano remarks “the guys behind the bar are very entertaining and the diversity of our customers really makes things fun! As a family, we all respect each other, making it easier to provide excellent service to our customers. My goal is to serve the best lunch in town at a very good value” adding “the family and staff put in 100% every day, moving as quickly as possible, while maintaining our high standards and presentation. We realize many of our customers are on a tight schedule.”
New menu items include Tacos Paisa and Coastal Azul Shrimp. Tacos Paisa is six little soft tacos served with your choice of four different meats. Select any combination of six from carnitas, steak, pastor, chorizo or Cabo chicken. The Costal Azul Shrimp is plump and delicious, featuring a light and lively sauce made from dried peppers and spices, served with sliced avocado and soft grilled and buttered telara bread.
Cool off from the summer’s heat with Cancun’s light and fresh Ceviche or their signature Michelada. The Ceviche is a tasty and refreshing mix of citrus marinated shrimp with chopped tomatoes, onion and jalapenos. The Cancun Michelada is a cerveza preparada, Mexican beer mixed with tomato juice, lime juice, cucumbers, spicy salt, topped with nine shrimp. It’s a meal in itself!
Many feel Cancun’s margaritas are the best in eastern Iowa. Don Pepe Cano is your tequila and margarita tour guide. Don Pepe scours liquor distributors throughout the Midwest to find rare and exotic tequilas, often resulting in being their exclusive purveyor in Iowa. The Cancun features each of Don Pepe’s finds in the form of their special gold margarita of the month. The special margarita for May and Cinco de Mayo will be Avion Silver.
Avion Silver is Blanco tequila, 100% Blue Agave from Jalisco, Mexico, where the Cano family calls home. Aged for two years, its aroma is intense with herbal notes of mint and rosemary, delicate hues of flowers and black peppers, with hints of grapefruit and pineapple. Every special margarita of the month features fresh hand squeezed orange juice, garnished with large slices of lime and orange.
Don Pepe is known for offering up to forty different tequilas to choose from at any time. During our recent visit, he pulled a solid walnut case from behind the bar containing a bottle of Patron Piedra Triple Anejo tequila. The crystal bottle contains tequila aged in wood barrels for over three years, with a current market value of $399. This spirit has a deep mahogany color, with hints of fresh fruit, mushroom and toasted oak. Mexican beers served by the Cancun include Corona, Pacifico, Tecate, Dos Equis amber or lager and Modelo Special or Negra.
Cinco de Mayo is always fun at the Cancun Mexican Grill and Bar. Plans include free tequila shots and giveaway novelty items from the restaurant’s beer and tequila vendors. Enjoy the holiday celebration from the Cancun’s newly installed patio, the largest of any Mexican restaurant in Cedar Rapids. Patio features include comfortable tables, umbrellas to shield you from the sun, outside heaters and a new patio sofa. When leaving, Don Pepe’s signature farewell is always “see you tomorrow!”
Cancun Mexican Grill and Bar
365 33rd Avenue S.W. Cedar Rapids, Iowa