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The Beach Gourmet: Kay’n Dave’s: Your Neighborhood Mexican Cantina

Although the name Kay’n Dave’s is more suggestive of a hair salon or neighborhood bar, in this instance it is the name of a trio of Mexican Cantinas specializing in healthful “south of the border” classics, located in the Palisades, West Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.

The Santa Monica location is nestled away in a rather inconspicuous row of stores right across from the Brentwood Country Mart on 26th Street. The ambience is casual and disarming, with plenty of bright artwork and ceiling adornments, including masks, sombreros, and some truly delightful infantine creations courtesy of the many children who have dined here and are always duly furnished with paper and crayons.

The huge menu includes a slogan to remind the diner that lard is about as popular here as a pork sandwich salesman at a bar mitzvah.

After being presented with the complimentary warm chips and a bowl of absolutely splendid salsa, my guest and I opted for a shared starter, the Old Fashion(ed) Nachos (chips, cheese, jalapeños, and onions, $5.95), and main courses that consisted of Shrimp Vera Cruz (grilled tiger shrimp in tomato jalapeño sauce, rice, avocado, and pico de gallo, $15.95) for myself, and Cheese Enchiladas with a Carnitas Taco Combination Plate (served with Spanish rice and beans, $9.95) for my guest.

Service was brisk, with our Old Fashion Nachos arriving in the blink of an eye. This plate was simple, fresh, and tasty, with a mountain of chips graced with a blend of American and cheddar cheeses, and topped with jalapeños and crisp uncooked onion in a pleasantly unfussy style. This was a good example of how less can be more, as the portion was more than enough for two.

After admiring and discussing the innocent illustrations of visiting bambinos, and declining our server’s tongue-in-cheek offer for me to create an effort of my own, we dug into our main courses with mucho enthusiasm.

The Shrimp Vera Cruz was superb, a generous serving of large, juicy, and fresh tiger shrimp with tails in a delicious sauce, delightfully fluffy Spanish rice, and refreshing pico de gallo that boasted a fresh cilantro overtone. It left nothing to be desired – traditional, simple, Mexican home-style cooking at its best.

My guest’s dish was clearly a joy for him, albeit short lived, as he inhaled it in record time.

With a larger than usual dessert menu for a cantina, we pondered for a moment on the wisdom of enjoying a sweet finale to our lunch.

Wisdom prevailed, and we chose to share The Mudslide, a large pecan brownie with vanilla ice cream, topped with a sweet chocolate sauce and whipped cream, surrounded by sliced strawberries at the north, south, east, and west of the plate, $5.95. Enjoyed with coffee, it was the perfect culinary epilogue to a mid-day cheer.

Kay’n Dave’s, 262 26th Street, 310.260.1355.

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