Today I was invited down to the “La Taqueria” on Hastings Street. This is the popular taco shop’s original location, they are now sporting five others around Vancouver, to satisfy your taco needs.
The Hastings branch has been recently renovated, just in time for summer; with a new bar and cocktail program, and some happy hours specials to enjoy them with. Happy Hour runs from 3-6pm every day of the week, and we were here today to take full advantage.
The renovations were time and money well spent. It takes their small hole in the wall and transforms it into a simple and moody bar (in a good way). A few bar stools by the counter, a handful of family style sharing tables and dim lights to set the tone: from drinks with the boys to a dinner date with the girls. Quick and easy dining with an edge.
But really they are more a bar than anything else, especially when you see and try the calibre of cocktails coming out from behind the counter. Take it from a gal who goes ga-ga over a good glass. Don’t let their tiny real estate fool you, with a bevy of herbs and bitters they bring classy cocktails to the sides of tacos and burritos with ease. But if that isn’t for you they also offer beer by the can or bottle, and margaritas on tap. In fact majority of their Happy Hour specials give you the winning combo of one of their tacos or nachos, with one of their popular beverages for less. For example, a Baja taco and a pint runs at $9 during Happy Hour, which saves you around $4. And Margaritas and “Palomas” are $7 between 3-6pm, instead of $10 regularly.
But to be honest, the regularly priced cocktails are the ones I am recommending. Between our party of three we instinctively found and ordered our favourite notes between spicy, strong, and sweet.
I was highly interested in this tropical twist to a classic.Wild Turkey, Piquant & coconut syrup, absinth, angostura, and lemon oil. Sadly, the “Spiced coconut old fashioned” didn’t have as much coconut flavour as I wanted. I had to strain to taste it. I also didn’t get any of the liquorice from the absinth, not that I am complaining about that one. But at least the drink was as strong and as full bodied as I expected from an Old Fashioned.
The “Bad Hombre” is Wild Turkey, Los Siete Misterios Mezcal, chartreuse, ginger, habanero, citrus, and a poblano pepper. It had a warming, back of your throat burn to it, a warming spice that would pair great with any of their dishes, giving it some zip and spice.
The “Sunset” certainly lived up to its name in imagery. Tequilla blanco, Campari, strawberry & peppercorn shrub, and citrus. Despite its fruit punch-like colour, this one was very Tequila forward, with hints of pepperiness. Sweet but with strong alcohol after taste.
The “Shifting sands” was an easy to drink cocktail, like flavoured water: light and breezy. Tio pepe, bercherovka, Cointreau, honey, citrus, and mint. It was mint forward and even more so when you muddied the sprig of green into the drink, which I am recommending.
The “Jalisco after midnight” was my favourite for flavour. El jimandor, reposado, pisco, vermouth, cynar, cacao, and grapefruit oil. A great smokey drink that you sip to savour. It was incredibly smooth with a creamy chocolatey finish.
Hands down, the “Sinner Man” was the most impressive drink of the night. Saffron infused rum, Mexican falernum, lime grapefruit, and cinnamon smoke. The highlight was the cinnamon stick set on fire. The visual of the smoke caught your eye and the scent of the burning stick kept your nose. Be sure to use the singed cinnamon stick as a stir stick after, so that its essence mingles into the cocktail for a more warming note. It was nutty with the spice, and overall easy to drink like a tropical juice.
The sensation of smelling it first, then tasting it for a different experience was used in another drink as well. The “Charros kick” (name pending) was one of two drinks we got a sneak peak taste of. They have yet to hit the regular drink menu, but you should be seeing them make their debut in the week to come. Mesczal tequila, orgeat, almond, and lemon juice. Here, you smelled the almond essence, but never taste it. Similarly, you expect it to be a richer and creamier drink because of its white milky-hue. Instead, it is light and refreshing.
The second, soon to be released cocktail is the “Bonito”, which did not taste like the salty flake with the same name, instead it was more minty, like a mojto made with Beefeater gin and Lillet blanc.
As for food, their seafood tacos continue to be my favourites, and the ones I recommend. Especially the two that featured battered and deep fried fish and shrimp. The trip in the fryer gives the otherwise soften taco some much needed crunch. And as textural eater, it is so important for my month-feel that I get that balance. The “Baja” taco featured tempura beer battered seasonal fish with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo in a
6″ hand made flour tortilla. The “Cabo” taco had the same make up, just replace fish for tempura beer battered prawns.
And if you like your fish fresh, they also have the “Atun” taco. Seared albacore tuna with
wasabi mayo, chili ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo on a 6″ hand made flour tortilla. This one was refreshing, sort of like poke or salad with the raw fish and fresh vegetable, except with a dry taco shell that you can eat around.
The other tacos are smaller in size and feature more raw, pickled, and stewed vegetables and meats. I found them less exciting flavour-wise, but their bar of sauces and pickles were perfect in rectifying this. Here, you customize with as little or as much of their salsa verde, chipotle, or habanero sauces in squeeze bottles; as you like.
But when it comes to Happy Hour and sharing, my vote is for the nachos! This serving is definitely not for just one person. The tortilla chips used are what sets this platter apart, that and the fact that they are double baked. The crispier and airier chips are noticeably lighter. They don’t have much flavour to them, but luckily they are top with plenty and layer after layer there is a consistent 1:1 ratio of dressing to chip. Three tiers of corn chips, three different cheeses, refried beans, onions, Jalapeño, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de gallo, and a creamy chipotle sauce. But be warned, the refried bean mixture does contain traces of meat, therefore this is not a vegetarian option.
But if you are ding solo and want that crunch and easy munch, you can order guacamole with some plain chips. They use the same chips as the nachos, but with a chilled lumpy pico de gallo mix to load them up with. In truth, I ordered this by accident, wanting a side of guac for the nachos, not that it needed another condiment, in hindsight.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It is a little far for me to travel for tacos, where there are two of their other locations much closer to me. Although neither of them offer the same extent of alcoholic beverages. This locale serves as an actual bar. Lots of effort was put into really transforming the place and the experience. I would stop by just for a drink, when in the neighbourhood. Don’t deny your cravings.
322 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1K6