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'Fresh twist to food' at Corner Cantina

Caption
(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Executive Chef Raul Del Toro grills a burger in the kitchen of the Corner Cantina restaurant in Marengo on Friday, January 4, 2013.
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(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Dave Kozin (right), Patrick Forde and David Baebler meet at the Corner Cantina's bar for a lunch sales meeting on Friday, January 4, 2013.
Caption
(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
The Corner Cantina in Marengo has different daily specials, such as the shrimp nacho appetizer every Friday.

MARENGO – “I want to make Mexican and Southwest cuisine friendlier and more sophisticated for our customers.”

The intentions of Corner Cantina’s Executive Chef Raul Del Toro come to life in the Mexican-American offerings of the Marengo establishment. Opened since March 2012, the Southwest-inspired restaurant located at the corner for Grant Highway and South State Street offers a menu for a variety of palettes, a private dining room for parties, a full bar and catering.

Del Toro came on board in October 2012 after he closed the doors of his previous restaurant Del Toro’s Tex-Mex Grill and Bar in Huntley. Due to the recession and the inconvenient road construction on Route 47, Del Toro made the decision to close the doors after more than a decade in business. Though one door had closed for Del Toro, an opportunity arose to become part of the Corner Cantina family.

Del Toro found his love for food while working in the dormitory cafeteria at Illinois State University. Though he studied education, he took his passion for cooking after graduation and never looked back.

Del Toro said he sees his new position as an exciting challenge to cater to the tastes of the people of this "little big town.” He also said he enjoys the available resources that Marengo has to offer.

“Marengo is full of farms and it’s really great to be able to get the vegetables from these local farmers to make our dishes and salsas,” Del Toro said. “It’s great to have that relationship with the farmers in the area and there is nothing more important to execute a successful menu than fresh ingredients.”

Del Toro said he brought his Roasted Tomato Jalapeno Salsa and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa recipes that were customer favorites at his Huntley establishment to pair with Corner Cantina’s Mexican fare such as the popular steak fajitas.

Del Toro said that Corner Cantina does not stop at the traditional Mexican cuisine staples but also has sandwiches, ribs and a Friday night fish fry that are sizeable draws.

“I love to bring my own fresh twist to food,” Del Toro said.

Del Toro said he is constantly experimenting with new flavors that he features in weekly specials and loves to work on new menu items. He also admitted that he has a passion for the more delectable treats.

“I love the savory,” said Del Toro. “Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays to cook for and I love to make delicious dessert specials. For New Year’s we offered a Mexican Chocolate Raspberry Napoleon that was just great. I’ll never stop playing with food.”

Corner Cantina:

What: Mexican-American cuisine with Southwest flair

Where: 228 S. State St. Marengo.

Kitchen hours: Tuesday, 3 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 3 to 8 p.m. Closed Monday

Information: Call 815-568-1200

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