Cantina de Salsa is pairing Mexican food and music on Sunday afternoons in Cherry Valley.
Cantina de Salsa is a Mexican restaurant owned by chef-owner Alex Webster, of Alex & Ika Restaurant in Cooperstown. Normally the restaurant is only open for dinner service, from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. This month, however, the restaurant began hosting Sunday musical brunches, under the name “Beat the Winter Blues,” which feature a musical act and a special brunch menu.
“It was actually Alex’s idea,” said Hannah Bowen, executive manager at Cantina de Salsa and Alex & Ika.
Bowen said that Webster came up with the idea of doing musical brunches as a way of getting people out during the winter months.
Bowen enlisted the help of Carl Waldman, a writer and musician involved in the Cherry Valley music community, and Butch Yager to help organize the music. Waldman teaches music to young people as part of the performance and production workshops at the Old Cherry Valley School.
“I’m helping book the bands,” Waldman said.
The first musical brunch took place Feb. 15, and featured singer-songwriter Addy Schneider. Schneider grew up in Cherry Valley and lives in New York City.
“She came up for this,” Waldman said.
Schneider sang and played piano and guitar at the performance and was accompanied by Tom Shukis on accordion and ukulele and Dan Colon on upright bass.
Both Waldman and Bowen said that the first brunch was a success.
“We had a really good crowd,” Waldman said, noting that all the rooms at Cantina de Salsa were full.
“It was actually a bigger turnout than we had expected,” Bowen said.
Bowen also said that Cantina de Salsa’s brunch menu, which includes items such as flank steak huevos rancheros and eggs benedict, went over well. The restaurant’s regular menu was also available to be ordered from. Additionally, patrons were able to purchase their first Bloody Mary, which at Cantina de Salsa is made with tequila, at half price with the purchase of a meal.
Waldman compared the atmosphere during the event to the musical evenings that are held at The Rose & Kettle, another Cherry Valley restaurant.
Doors open for the brunches at 11 a.m. and music begins at noon and goes until 3 p.m. Service continues until 4 p.m., after which Cantina de Salsa closes its doors, before reopening at 5 p.m. for dinner.
Sunday, the group playing at the musical brunch will be a jazz trio consisting of Richard Saba on guitar, John Templin on bass and Butch Yager on drums. It was specially formed for the performance at Cantina de Salsa from the members of the Cherry Valley Community Jazz Band, which is part of the programming at the Old Cherry Valley School.
“We were asked to put together a quiet trio for this thing,” Saba said.
Saba said that the jazz band is made up of community members, most of whom, although not all, are older players.
“We’re really intent on … keeping jazz alive and visible,” Saba said. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to hear jazz around here.”
Although he hasn’t had brunch at Cantina de Salsa yet, Saba said, “I’m a big fan of the food there.”
He also noted that he and the other band members are being compensated for their performance with a meal at the restaurant.
Saba said that the trio will be performing a lot of “straight ahead jazz” as well as jazz-blues and bossa nova.
Bowen said the brunches will go through the winter, probably through March, although they might continue afterward under a name other than “Beat the Winter Blues.”
“We hope it’ll keep going ... into the spring,” Waldman said. “It promotes the music in the area.”