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El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 47 reviews )
Contact 831-646-5465

791 Foam St, Monterey, California, USA, 93940

Opened May 2013, an all vegan Mexican food restaurant located in New Monterey area. Colorful ambiance. Order at the counter. Menu uses some faux meat. Open Mon-Thu 11:00am-9:00pm, Fri 11:00am-3:30pm, Sun 11:00am-9:00pm.

Category: Vegan, Take-out, Mexican

Reviews (47)

First Review by magickbaby

A little bland - Edit

I was expecting something hot and full of flavour. Both our dishes were kind of tame to the point of bland. We ate a tofu burrito and chickn flautas, I poured the salsa dip all over mine in an effort to improve the taste. Maybe some hot sauce on the table would help??

Pros: Quick and friendly service, Reasonably priced

Cons: Dull

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amaze - Edit

Utterly amazing. The showstopper that I had was the mole negro. It blew my mind. Such rich, flavorful mole. We also loved our fish tacos and burrito. The spiced coffee, hot chocolate, rice pudding, and fried plantains were also bomb.

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Vegan Mexican - Edit

El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant is a nice little place with a decent sized seating area and humble interior. I guess I was expecting more of a traditional Mexican Restaurant but the interior was average. The food is prepared in a semi-open prep area visible from the tables. While everything seemed clean and nice enough there was a sense of disorganization. We arrived and simply wanted to view the menu and were handed a poor b&w photocopy of a very long detailed menu. After pondering the numerous items we decided to split a few things. While the food was all good, I can't tell you what we had because of the length of the menu and the time we spent mulling over everything. I can tell you the Crispy Potato Tacos were delicious. I'll give them a four star but I'd say I'm really between a 3 and 4. Their menu can be simplified and clarified. I will go again and I will start to more systematically review the various items.

Pros: Food tasted good, Many choices

Cons: Too many choices/confusing, Options, sides, etc. confusing to newbie

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Good, but not Great - Edit

I met my life long dream to eat a Chile Renello as this one was vegan. I was so pleased.

Also, the portions are quite large. I couldn't finish everything that came with it. Not even close. For most people, the food was enough for 2 or even 3 people as it had a side of a rice, beans, 3 tortillas and a large portion of chips and salsa.

On the downside, for some of the ingredients, the quality was not up to par. The tortillas were from the brand name Mission and is questionably vegan, the chips were a bit stale.

Pros: Price, Large Portions, Many Choices

Cons: Qualify of Some Ingredients, It didn't taste great

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Unbelievably fresh and good - Edit

My first visit to El Cantaro and I couldn't be happier. As a new Vegan, I'm working my way through the process and everyone was incredibly helpful. But more importantly, the food was wonderful with interesting textures and tastes. I will be a steady and loyal customer!!!

Pros: staff, flavors

Cons: nothing !!

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Awesome food - Edit

My partner and I very much enjoyed our meal here. We shared a mole negro and veggie enchiladas. I've had and made mole negro sauce before, but this one was like night and day. It was incredibly complex, slightly smokey and chocolatey with a hint of sweetness. The enchiladas with tomatillo sauce were also delicious.

The only two things I'd like to see changed are the reliance on fake meats on the menu as meat substitutes and the use of paper plates and plastic utensils even for dine-ins. The latter took away the overall dining experience. That said, I'd highly recommend this place and would happily come back if we ever found ourselves in the area again.

Pros: delicious food, inexpensive

Cons: fake meat, paper plates & plastic utensils

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Best Mexican Bar None - Edit

Not even expensive restaurants have been better than this small place up from the Monterey aquarium. Susan the manager was wonderful. I have owned 3 award winning vegetarian restaurants since 1975, and I know a good meal. We ate here with the former owner of the Pastry swan bakery in Palm Springs, and they agreed. His wife hails from Mexico, and gives a thumbs up. We ate here every day of our five day vacation!!!

Updated from previous review on 2014-06-27

Pros: Authentic, View Of Bay, walking distance from the Aquarium

Cons: small parking lot, metered street parking

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great mexican food - Edit

we were vacationing in Monterey and looked for a vegan restaurant on Happy Cow - could not believe that this is the only one! But, it turned out for the best because this is the best Mexican food I have had in years. We had the mole sauce and fish(tuna) taco and both were excellent. The staff was very helpful as there are LOTS of choices. My only wish is that this restaurant was in San Diego.


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This place is Great! - Edit

Okay, so in Monterey it may be kind of difficult finding decent Mexican Food, let alone Vegan Mexican Food, but let me say that this food was hands down the best Vegan Mexican Food I've ever had.

Pros: Excellent Food, Great Service , Nice Vibe

Cons: Small Parking Lot

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Pleasantly surprised! - Edit

This is the sole Vegan restaurant in Monterey and it does not disappoint. A typical Mexican eatery - casual, TV, music playing. It's a bit usual to see sour cream + cheese, etc on a Vegan menu, but it is ALL VEGAN! I stuck to items that didn't have to much "fake" things (like chickin) and it was great. Had a small tortilla soup that was delicious - not a traditional flavor, but all the toppings you expect. I had the appetizer special which were veggie empanditas. They were amazing and adorable. This dish did have the vegan sour cream and what looks like Diaya cheese, Real good. Next time I will venture into a more adventurous choice.

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Good Eats in Monterey - Edit

I loved the place and ate here twice during a 3-day visit. I tried "Favorites of Mexico City," the Huaraches and the Crispy Potato Tacos and enjoyed both. Great portions and lots of flavor. The staff are very nice and the service is prompt. As is true with most plant-based restaurants, everyone will find something delicious here even if you don't follow a vegan, cruelty-free diet. It's a shame that people come to Monterey and want to eat seafood. We know that little of it is local, 70% of it is imported and of that, the vast majority is caught illegally or isn't what it is labeled as. Monterey is a place to enjoy the sea and celebrate the protection of marine mammals and fish that were once hunted to near extinction. By eating at El Cantaro, you help save the wild seas and enjoy a hearty meal in the process.

Pros: Hearty, healthy food, Good value, Nice view!

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Pleasant - Edit

El Cantaro is a spacious and pleasant restaurant. The setting is well lit, if utilitarian. The food was very good. I had the huaraches with "chickin" and mushrooms, plus a rice pudding for dessert. It was an enjoyable dinner.

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disappointed - Edit

today we drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco and made a stop at this restaurant. We had 'three chickin enchiladas" and the veggie burger. The sauce from the enchiladas wasn't tasty at all and the beans were over cooked. the burger was OK, but the patty looked like something from the freezer.
in addition we ordered the kale salad - again, the sauce did not taste good at all.
overall we were very disappointed given the raving reviews this restaurant gets on this page.

if it was possible, we would only give 1 star.

Pros: vegan

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If zero stars were possible... - Edit

We were actually looking forward to trying this place, loving flacos in Berkeley and a similar place in San Diego. This place "opened" 15 mins late and then didn't even acknowledge our presence. One guy felt it was way more important to talk on the phone. The cook didn't even look up. No one said "hello" or "be right with you". Inexcusable. We walked out and won't be going back.

Pros: nice that more people are opening vegan restaurant

Cons: need I say more?

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Nice options, not so fresh though - Edit

I will preface this review, as I should all my reviews, that it is GREAT to have vegan options that are healthy anywhere I travel in the world!

The menu is extensive with a lot of vegan choices. Being Mexican, many of the dishes are tortilla-based, like tacos, burritos, and tamales. I'm not at all a fried-dish person and tend to stay away from grains to some extent, so this limited my options.

Not a fan of fake "meats", I ordered the kale salad. I usually expect very fresh produce in Cali--and especially in a vegan place--but the kale, beets, and carrots were dry and looked stale. They also didn't taste that great.

The desserts, while tempting, seemed very much for a sugar-lovers pallet. There weren't really any what I would call healthy desert options. So, I left a little wanting.

Again, I am very thankful that El Cantaro flies the vegan flag, so thumbs up to them for that. But if you are looking for healthy, more raw-style vegan, this isn't that great of a place for you. Maybe try the Whole Foods nearby. If you're traveling with non-vegans, though, this might be a good compromise.

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Best Mexican Food Ever! - Edit

One of our favorite cuisines is Mexican and coming from Los Angeles, we have tried everything for decades. This restaurant is authentic, fresh, creative, exciting, and absolutely fabulous! We have tried almost everything on the menu and absolutely recommend it with the highest praise!

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Great Find! - Edit

Found this place for lunch after visiting the Monterey Aquarium. Don't bother with Cannery Row (Tico's Tacos).
The food here is fantastic- authentic dishes vegan style with so much flavor and care. Highly recommended!

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Absolutely delicious! - Edit

This is quite simply one of my favourite restaurants around the world. My wife & I dined here 3 times during a recent short stay in Monterey and tried a range of different menu items including mexican favourites like burritos, tacos, nachos etc. All were absolutely delicious. The smoothies are also great, made with fresh fruit. I love this place...5 stars.

Pros: Delicious, authentic food, All vegan, Extensive menu

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Unexpectedly Delicious - Edit

I've been here twice and both times were great. The unexpected part was that they use amaranth and mushrooms for their "meats" and it's really good. I had the "beef" enchiladas and it was fantastic. Their schedule can sometimes be an issue but it's not a deal breaker for me. I hope they are able to stay in business since it's hard to find vegan options in this area.

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very good food, nice staff, we loved it - Edit

Been there today while on holidays in the area with my non-vegan bf. We both loved the food! We had burritos and I have never had a better vegan burrito in my life. Menu has all mexican food available one could wish for, there are also desserts and smoothies on the menu. Staff is very nice and helpful too. We can definitely recommend this place to anyone, no matter if vegan or not!

Pros: mexican food!, nice and helpful staff, parking space in front available

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Vegan and Mexican! - Edit

We were so glad to find this place. All the dishes have an extra ingredient or two that gives them some delicious flavors. Our group ordered a wide variety of plates and everyone shared. I especially liked the burritos, potato tacos, kale salad, mango smoothy and watermelon drink. We can't wait to be back in this area again to enjoy another meal here.

Pros: Variety of interesting dishes., Tastes very good., Specials of the day.

Cons: Slow ordering, people ask questions

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all vegan Mexican - Edit

After visiting with friends in Pebble Beach, I stopped by El Cantaro for lunch on the way out of town last Sunday. So pleased I did. They were easy to spot with vegan right on their sign, but I did a double take once inside to remind myself that it was a vegan place. Very nice to have authentic Mexican and I couldn't decide what to get as I was alone without anyone to share with. I ended up ordering the tortilla soup, crispy potato taco plate with black beans and a watermelon fruit drink. They also provide chips and salsa (which I personally didn't find too spicy). I was so stuffed as I finished it all. The service was very quick and friendly and the prices were reasonable. Their Friday and Saturday closures did not affect me, but it is something to be aware of.

Pros: all vegan Mexican, reasonably priced, quick service

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Amazing and beautiful people! - Edit

I have been in the area for a month and even though this is California, it's been a bit difficult to find vegetarian/vegan places. Most restaurants are happy to create a vegan dish for you if you wish, but sometimes these are chefs that have no idea what that means!
El Cantaro was a true find and the food is amazing, the people wonderful and the prices extraordinary! My vegan taco was 3.95$..... Really? When is the last time you got anything for that price that was delicious and filling and vegan! My husband loves the burritos and they are gigantic!
We are leaving this area soon but will always remember this place as one of our vegan restaurants we have visited all around this great country!

Pros: Good food, Friendly staff, Great prices

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amazing food! :D - Edit

I took my non-vegan, meat-loving family here today. They were pretty resistant to it, I had to beg and plead and pay for everyone, and I could still only get the ladies of the family to come along. But I would say that it was a success! :) The food was wonderful, and so authentic! Although the salsa was too spicy for me.
I got the vegetable burrito. I wanted to do without carrots and sub in onions, but she said that it was a pre-made vegetable mix so I couldn't omit the carrots. But I was able to add the onions and eat around the carrots. I also was able to choose a whole wheat tortilla - that was pretty great! The whole thing was amazing - I totally stuffed myself. So yummy :)
My grandma and aunt both got the vegetable enchiladas. They did make comments about the fake dairy products ("what is it made out of? It's not melting like normal cheese.") and they said that the green Enchilada sauce was very good and flavorful but a bit spicy. They ate about half their meal.
My other aunt got the pozole and an extra side of rice. Ate everything, and said that it was good, just tasted a bit "different".
My little cousin got a "cheese" quesadilla with rice and beans, off the kid's menu. Completely cleaned her plate, and loved it all. Didn't notice anything "different" (cause she wasn't expecting anything different maybe?) ;)

Overall though it was a good experience, the food was amazing, and I hope it opened my family's eyes a bit to how good and totally normal vegan food is, when done right.

Pros: great food and all vegan, very authentic, nice people

Cons: only use disposable forks/spoons/plates, too spicy! no mild salsa offered?

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A Vegan Dream Come True - Edit

Giving up cheese is difficult, so many vegans opt out of Mexican food,giving this place a special WAHOO in my mnd. They use Daiya brand cheese and a couple of their own.All super fresh, endless options, loved it!

Pros: Super friendly staff, Fast, Super fresh

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great food and nice staff - Edit

This restaurant is a great find. Everything we had was fresh and tasty. Be sure to get a hot chocolate. The chocolate is from Oaxaca and it tastes great. The staff/owners are very nice.

Pros: great food, nice people

Cons: none

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Amazing Food! - Edit

We were in Monterey for 4 nights and we ate at El Cantaro all 4 nights. We were so happy to have found this place and recommend it to anyone who wants good vegan Mexican food. The pozole and handmade corn tortillas were amazing! The enchiladas and taquitos were some of our favorites. We also had the fish tacos which were quite yummy. It's good to know that most of their veggie meats are also non-GMO and soy free. The next time we're in Monterey, we will definitely go back.

Pros: Amazing pozole & handmade corn torillas, Very friendly staff

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My non-vegetarian family LOVED it! - Edit

First, I'd like to begin by saying that the food here surprised me in just how tasty it really was. I didn't really feel like eating mexican food, but we came here because the vegan options in Monterey were slim. I left having to rave about the experience!

The food tasted like it had come off the line of a Michelin star winning kitchen and chef. The flavor was so well balanced. The food was nourishing. And my older brother (not vegetarian) announced to us all that he'll be telling stories of this place.

Great food... Low price. $6-$7 a dish. And the store front was clean, new looking, and the service was quick and friendly!

Pros: tasty, low price, nourishing

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amazing - Edit

We visit during our driving trip from Vancouver , BC down the PCH. The food is amazing. They have many traditional dishes I have never tried. My favourite is the yams in cinnamon syrup with vanilla soy ice cream for dessert. I am still dreaming of it.

Pros: delish, good price, clean and friendly

Cons: not near my home in Canada

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Yummy, Inexpensive, lots of choices - Edit

only one complaint:

They are closed Fri and Sat, due to religious reasons. I respect that, but those are terrible nights to be closed in the restaurant business!

They still earn 5 stars, and here's why:

A high quality true vegan restaurant in Monterey! Wahoo!
SO excited to have a high quality, delicious all-vegan restaurant in the area - the menu choice is large, with many unique offerings, and the food is flavorful and delicious! Also reasonably priced. :) Restaurant is colorful, cheerful and bright, spotlessly clean. We need this place to survive - tell all your friends!

Pros: yummy, many choices, clean and bright

Cons: uses non-recyclable paper & plastics, not open Fridays & Saturdays

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Delicious - Edit

This place is so awesomely delicious. We were in the area and stopped by fit lunch. My husband and I liked it so much that we had to stop for dinner as well before going back home

Pros: tasty, friendly , good portions

Cons: loud music, small

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Why the crazy hours? - Edit

We really wanted to eat here, but they are closed Fridays at 3:30pm and all day Saturday. Hard to believe -- right next to the big tourist draw, Cannery Row, and hours like this? We visited from the San Luis Obispo area, only found out about this place around 4pm on Friday, bummed we couldn't eat there. Had Thai food instead.

Cons: closed Fridays and Saturdays

1 Response

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LukeNysen 31 Jul 2014 - You'd love the toes off of this restaurant!! The food here is nothing short of amazing. I recommend you find a day they're open and head to Monterey just to give them a shot. 2 stars is hardly fair when you haven't even tried their food.

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Wow - unexpected - absolutely great - you must go - Edit

A gem - great food - good prices - 2 blocks from Monterey Bay Aquarium - we had lunch at El Cantaro, went to the aquarium and then went back to El Cantaro for a snack - we will eat at El Cantaro anytime we are in the area - don't miss this

Pros: great food and prices, very friendly, all vegan and all organic

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Awesome Mexican food that happens to be vegan!!! - Edit

We discovered this place while in Monterey for a wedding. What a gem! They have a huge menu, generous portions, biodegradable tableware and napkins in a friendly and cozy atmosphere. On top of all this, the food is amazing. If not for the word vegan on their sign outside, you could not tell. This food is pure amazing and authentic Mexican cuisine. We will definitely be back!

Pros: Huge menu, Excellent food, Biodegradable tableware and napkins

Cons: Limited weekend hours

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Great new VEGAN restaurant - Edit

I was very happy to find this new vegan restaurant and finally had a chance to try it. It is really fast food, our order was served very quickly. They have many great choices, I had the tamales with black beans and rice. I look forward to going back and trying more things. They could improve by having better plastic forks and spoons but otherwise it was a great experience.

Pros: Good choices, Spicy and tasty Mexican food, Quick service

Cons: Small plastic forks

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Vegan yumminess ! - Edit

I had the quesadilla. First off the tortilla was home made. It was full of mushrooms, salsa, vegan sour cream, and Daiya cheese. Sooooo good ! My husband had the vegetable enchilada plate..lets just say he didn't say a word cause he was too busy eating !! We had fresh squeezed orange juice to drink and home made chips and chipolte salsa ! The staff is so friendly and courteous. All around an excellent experience ! I will definitly be back !

Pros: friendly, clean atmosphere, tasty !

Cons: portions could be a tiny bit bigger

1 Response

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RoxeneKimes 21 Jul 2013 - 'Bout time! We believe this is the first vegan restaurant on the Peninsula in recent years. Thank you. We both enjoyed our meals today.

Albeit, some of the food was too spicy (tamale sauce). Also, a larger portion of beans and rice would have been nice, but you still get a B+.

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