Today I was on Main Street, celebrating the grand opening of the newest location to join the “La Taqueria” family. They are located ideally on the corner of Main and Broadway, by a prominent bus stop, for that extra walk-in traffic. Because as we know, there is nothing better than tacos on the go. Through their other five locations, they have already proven themselves as a prominent purveyor of the good stuff. Established in 2009 they have been bringing the “taste and feel of street tacos” from the streets of Mexico to the Lower Mainland.
But before we go any further, the disclaimer. When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The restaurant’s plain exterior is misleading as it does usher you into a pretty special space, which intentionally had a new yet lived in feel to it. Blue and white geometric tiles imported from Mexico, reclaimed wood furniture, distressed antiques, and a collection of brass pigs. It was modern and dressy, yet cool and casual, all without effort.
The opening of this location is extra special, as it is the first, and currently only location that has a cocktail program, the others simply offer bottled drinks, Here, they are equipped with a bar and are working with mixologists from around town to create a relevant, rotating drink menu. Tonight we would get to try three such cocktails.
The “Classic margarita” featuring your choice of either mezcal or tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and agave nectar. Finished off with a finessed salted rim that had the salt grains cascading down the side of the glass.
The “Paloma” was pretty in a pale pink. Once again your choice of mezcal or tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. Finished off with an lemon slice.
My favourite was the “Mezcal negroni” that was finished off with flames, and as a result had a wonderfully robust, smokey flavour to it. Not to mention the nifty work that went into cutting orange rinds into the shape of lightening bolts. Mezcal, cinzano rosso, campari, and pineapple bitters.
Their food menu is hand painted and hung on the wall, as it is for all their other locations. A mirrored listing of what is available and what goes in to it, for you to look at before committing.
We would begin with all that is new to any of their restaurants. First, the nacho platter: corn chips, a trio of Guadalajara-sourced cheeses, refried beans, onions, jalapeño pickles, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de Gallo, and a chipotle sauce. A great snack for sharing and pairing with the new cocktails. The mound of double baked nachos is comprised of three tiers and is dressed accordingly so that each chip has some topping. The chips were thick and crunchy, they held their texture even as the serving cooled. No complaints, besides not wanting to share. Guess that is reason enough to return, to be able to get a platter all to myself.
But if you prefer just some chip and the ability to regulate your dip, you can also get a platter of corn chips and salsa, or one with chips and pico de Gallo.
And now “La Taqueria”, has everyone’s favourite, churros! These cinnamon and sugar sticks are homemade and baked fresh to order. Make sure you eat these as soon as you get them, that way they are still crispy on the outside and the dulce de leche is still gooey for the dipping.
They of course, also offer the full extent of their taco, burrito, and quesadillas line at this location. Tonight we would try all of their fish and meat tacos, which are prepared using traditional recipes; utilizing local, organic and sustainable ingredients.
The great thing about tacos here is that anything you find bland, you can easily rectify by taking a stroll to their sauce and pickle bar, where with a scoop, dollop, or squeeze you can easily add flair to your handheld. Therefore I will only be speaking to the main ingredient in each taco as you are encourage to customize and pile high to your preference.
Their seafood tacos are my favourite and a big hit with the crowd. They come in slightly larger rounds than the meat tacos below. 6″ hand made flour tortillas.
“Atun”. Seared albacore tuna with wasabi mayo, chilli ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo. The fish and its asian seasonings reminded me of tuna tataki, with gentle and fresh flavours. To be honest I would have loved it as a salad with some greens, or the fish dressed as is to better highlight its quality.
My favourite was the “Baja” taco. Tempura beer battered seasonal fish, cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. A dressier fried fish with a crispy outside and a flaky inside. Overall, punchy flavours, bold spices, and a creamy sauce to balance them all.
I loved how the “cabo” tacos looked visually. Tempura beer battered prawns with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. Althouugh really didn’t taste all that different from the fish taco above, given their overlapping use of ingredients. And if I was to choose between the two, it would be the fish.
The meat taco are a great deal at $3 each, and with some manipulating you can enjoy or share them as two mini tacos with still plenty of filling. They are served in 4” soft corn tortillas.
“Asada”. We found the grilled ‘AAA’ flank beef to be a little dry. Keeping in mine the sheer volume of patrons that was celebrating with “La Taqueria” today, and the food necessary to feed them being pushed out in large batches. The “De Cachette”, braised beef cheeks was a lot more juicy and flavourful. But the “De Lengua, braised beef tongue, the moistest of them all. But my favourite of the quartet was the “Pollo Con Mole”. I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the free range chicken coated in a chocolate mole sauce that contain nuts.
For meat tacos, “Carnitas” is my go to. Pork confit with pickled red onions, except I like it with a lot more pickles, which is easily achieved with a trip to their self serve condiment bar. The “Pescado” I found a little plain without additional dressing. The white seasonal fish didn’t taste like it was salted. Maybe with more chipotle mayo and salsa fresca, and less shredded cabbage this would have been more memorable. Whereas I liked the “Al Pastor” with its juicy pineapples offering sweetness and tang. It stood out amongst all the others. And lastly, I wanted some pickles on the “Tinga De Pollo” for acidity. As the chicken with chorizo in a chipotle tomato sauce was a little one tone.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If you haven’t visited the before, you need to come in for their seafood tacos, they are some of the best in the city. And now with cocktails, churros, and nachos, you have even more reason to make this your next dinner with a date or a mate. Don’t deny your cravings.