La Llorona Cantina: creative cuisine, cocktails, and camaraderie

An inventive Mexican menu and an extensive collection of tequilas and mezcals worth checking out.

La Llorona Cantina, 1551 W. Passyunk Ave., takes its name from a folk story about a wailing ghost but the 14-month old restaurant’s creative Mexican fare and unique spirits are nothing to cry about! 

The 70-seat establishment with a generous outdoor seating area is the third dining destination helmed by Arturo Lorenzo—joining La Mula Terca, 2053 Beechwood St., and Cafe y Chocolate, 1532 Snyder Ave. At La Llorona, Lorenzo teamed up with co-owners Adrienne Salvatore-Markey and Tim Lidiak to resurrect the space that, since August 2018, had been The Thirsty Soul

“This is a completely different concept, and I think what we have here is what things were always meant to be like,” Salvatore-Markey, a former owner of The Thirsty Soul, said. “It’s in a great location, and the neighborhood needs it, plain and simple.”

In giving the masses another way to appreciate Mexican cuisine, she and her peers have, since May, employed chef Marco Ronzon, relying on him to enhance the entrees selections, with five beauties, including a New York strip steak complemented with avocado butter and spring vegetables, as attention-grabbers. Those dishes have had a nice rivalry with La Llorona’s tacos and Nopalito salad as must-haves, making the spot a testament to the hard work that Salvatore-Markey’s “lovely staff” routinely executes.

Lorenzo also crafted a menu of snacks and an assortment of seafood dishes (ceviches/aguaquiles), and entrees that cover a range of options for carnivores (the aforementioned strip steak, pork chops, chicken mole), and for vegans, a roasted poblano stuffed with potato, corn and jalapeño.

Inventive daily specials round-out the offerings. Some serve as a lesson in Mexican cuisine. La Llorona’s post about tacos árabes lovingly described how the pork shawarma tacos from Puebla, Mexico were “created by Lebanese and Iraqi immigrants in the early 20th century. This ingenious adaptation combines Middle Eastern technique (spit-roasting layers of marinated meat) with local Mexican ingredients (pork and lime) and of course salsa muy picante!”

Tacos árabes

“There’s no shortage of Mexican eateries, especially in South Philly, so while we’re rooting for them all because that means that this type of food is excelling, we want to stand out and make patrons come back again and again,” Salvatore-Markey said. “To do that, we depend on Arturo’s reputation for quality, consistency, and excellent service.” 

La Llorona has paid equal attention to its potables. Salvatore-Markey proudly stated that 90 percent of the cantina’s agave spirits are not found in State stores. The mezcal and tequilas are joined by hard-to-source spirits.

“We want for you to take your time when you’re here anyway so that you can enjoy a nice time, so being patient with how you consume your drink should be a part of the experience, too,” La Llorona’s agave expert Oscar Ruiz said. “There’s no rush.” 

Enjoy drink specials at happy hour from 2-5 p.m Tuesday through Friday.

Weekend brunch runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Salvatore-Markey is eager to help diners celebrate Mexican Independence Day on September 16. She promises that the camaraderie and the cuisine will make them feel as if they’ve wandered into Mexico.

“Given Arturo’s background, I had a feeling that we’d do well here,” she said. “People appreciate the excellent food and the unbeatable drinks. During these uncertain times, we feel fortunate to be connecting with our guests.”

La Llorona Cantina
1551 W. Passyunk Ave.

Monday: Closed
Tuesday—Thursday: 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday: 2 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.