After 18 years of business, Alex & Ika Restaurant on 149 Main St. will be closing its doors Saturday to make way for the next big venture: Cantina de Salsa. The idea for the new restaurant, which will open on Cinco de Mayo, was born of a desire to strike a new path and delve into a particular type of cuisine, said owner Alex Webster.
“I’m ready to start something new,” Webster said. “That, combined with the tremendous success of Cantina de Salsa in Cherry Valley, leads me to think it would be a wonderful idea to bring Mexican (food) to Cooperstown.”
“Mexican” is a very recognizable term to most American eaters, with images of tacos, burritos, and enchiladas surfacing at the mere mention of the word. The widespread success of Tex-Mex chains such as Moe’s and Chipotle has given people a certain idea of what to expect when it comes to Mexican food, said Webster.
Cantina de Salsa, however, will maintain the laid-back and accessible atmosphere characteristic of most Mexican restaurants while also providing some more eclectic twists to its menu.
“We like to think of it more as a Latin restaurant,” Webster said. “It’s not going to be so many heavy, fried things. Instead, we’ll make it more Californian, more Floridian, fresh and light. So don’t be surprised if you find tastes of Jamaica or Brazil sneaking into some dishes!
“There will be plenty of fried foods, though, for those who care for it,” Webster added.
For those interested in quicker eats, there will be a to-go counter at the front of the new Cantina de Salsa where people can grab something for lunch or to take home. People can also order drinks and relax at the twelve-seat lounge upstairs, or at the bar downstairs.
“I happen to have a great fondness for ethnic foods,” Webster said. “When we first opened Alex & Ika Restaurant in Cherry Valley in 1997, it was almost impossible to get decent ethnic food in upstate New York. I have loved bringing those flavors to the local community, and providing a niche for people looking for a unique fine dining experience. Besides, it’ll just be more fun.”
Cantina de Salsa will be open year-round, Webster said. The warm, sunny and perhaps spicy vibe will be nice during the winter.
“My ongoing exploration of all things culinary in Central and Latin America and Mexico with my wife, Jeannine, and our four wonderful children, has piqued my interest and tastebuds. It makes a lot of sense, and it’s time to move on.”