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My guest had this place recommend to him, it was deemed the perfect stop on a sea to sky highway cruise. So on this sunny Vancouver day we saw the opportunity to drive and suss things out for ourselves. Hours later with stops at the usual view points: Horse Shoe Bay, Deep Cove, and Shannon Falls; we were in Squamish. Driving on the highway with a clear the view of the “Chief”, a mountain range I feel barely resembles a face.

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Our final destination held the winning combination of Mexican cuisine and fried chicken. Outside its sign and name attracted drivers passing by to stop. The sign mentioned their 99 problems but tacos not being one. The “99” also referring to the stretch of highway it stood adjacent to. The use of it in their name and tying it to well known rap lyrics was a clever. Their mascot was a predictable yellow chicken in a sombrero, with an extended wing he invited you in. On a weekend such as this, with a snowboarding competition held in Whistler, the restaurant saw an increase in traffic. Lines grew, booths filled, and the serving of food came to a stand still.

The restaurant was set up like a fast food chain without the drive through portion. I believe this was the shell of a repurposed Taco Bell. So the room’s foundation was set relatively the same, but with Mexican and Spanish elements peppered in.

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You line up to order at the front, right upon entry. Leaning against the waist height bars that snake around the foyer. The menu hangs above and behind the cashier as back lit signs. You stand aside and allowing others to pass as you shift through your choices. Poutine, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burgers without beef patties, and even a kids meals. But unlike other speedy and efficient fast food places, here orders are taken on paper and passed to the kitchen by hand. This in place of an automatic computer punch in system, saw much confusion. Without documentation or a standard practice many questions were asked, clarification was needed, and several orders missed. Though realistically, given the location, business may not always be this busy. And given that only three young individuals were running the shop everything ran relatively smooth.

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Dishes are prepared as ordered and everyone seemed to be coming in hungry, ordering multiple dishes; this caused the wait to be fairly substantial. Understandably with only only two workers in the back, the speed of procession was delayed. I don’t believe they anticipated the crowd trickling in from a day at Whistler. The youthful server facing the front line did the best she could for her age and experience. She was patience and able to correct as needed. All this and she still had the time to pop out from behind the counter to bus tables.

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Your meal is served on plastic trays, it allows you to carry your entire serving to the table of your choice. Sauces sat on the counter for general use. Bottled ketchup and hot sauce to be poured into little disposable cups. And you helped yourself to a drink of choice from the fountain machine at the corner. With the rowdy crowd in today, the restaurant’s system of shouting out orders to declare counter pick up seemed unproductive. It was a bad system. Not taking down names meant multiple customers approached the bench hoping it was their meal that was ready. Confusion erupted. We were fooled twice.

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The decor was authenticity making an attempt to relate to the new age. Traditional Mexican elements and Spanish flares set the room up with colourful interest. Colourful tissue paper cutouts hung from the ceiling’s ledge, a rainbow of rectangular snow flakes. Spanish cloth tapestries were strung up on the walls, sewn together images depicting scenes from the popular day of the dead. A collection of skulls and wrestling masks were used for art; represented in paintings, showcased in pictures, and present as artifacts on display. Mexican woven dolls dawning sun hats and dresses striped in tiers stood in greeting. A reward posting for a wanted “Francisco (pancho) Villa” was printed and pined in paper. Aloe plants kept warm wrapped in traditional patterned blankets. And chilli pepper plants kept a few of the red tables company. They sat facing the window, looking out at the highway and the “chief” just ahead. Seating came as singles by a bar top, doubles for groups, and booths in the centre for parties greater that four.

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Even the washroom was ornately decorated. The men’s hosted three wrestlers, fierce in masks and spandex. I only dared to click a quick picture a few feet from the door way. In the women’s, another masked face cloaked in blue with a devilish grin as she clasped hands in prayer. Quite the piece. Although the walls of the washroom were painted well with much attention and detail, the actual toilets could have used a good scrub down.

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“3 tacos fries and a drink” combo. We choose two in taco beef and one in Mexi rotisserie chicken. These over the other possible options of slow cooked red chilli beef, sweet ancho pork, veggie Mexican falafel, and roasted peppers with refried beans. We paid 99 cents for the added guacamole sauce for all three tacos. Even then it wasn’t tasty enough, though nothing some hot sauce couldn’t rectify. We found the flour tortillas hard, they could have used some addition baking in the oven. We split the generous filling between the two stack tortillas at its bottom. With this technique we had six tacos in reality. We were especially impressed with quantity of pulled chicken. Though found the beef the more flavourful of the two. The chicken tasted like it was grilled on the BBQ. The natural juices from the chicken and beef helped to lubricate the dry shells. And the coleslaw added freshness and crunch. Be prepared to get in there with your hands and to get messy with drippings. My guest claims a good burrito or taco drips with juices like ours did today. I concurred.

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“Chicken snack packs”. Two pieces of chicken with fries and a drink. The chicken was delicious with its crispy skin. The dark meat juicy and moist with each bite. Not oily, but well seasoned to the bone. This despite the bottom of the wax paper lined basket glistening with grease. Hands down my preferred brand of fried chicken, my newly declared favourite to date. Never mind the colonel or any from churches. The fries were an enjoyable longer than usual length. Each basket filled with fries fried from different batches. They were disappointingly only room temperature when we got them. And their uneven cooking varied from piece by piece and order to order.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is my ideal location for munchies. Shame it’s this far away. The restaurant was busy with all walks of people coming in and out. What seemed like an inconvenient destination all the way out here was the perfect pitstop between Vancouver and Whistler. Chicken and Mexican, take two things people love, combine them together and it’s fool proof. The food was fun, it’s taste fresh, and it’s offerings familiar. Take away the distance and you have the perfect go to for a good meal on a fair budget. Don’t deny your cravings.

MAG’S 99
1584 Hwy 99, Squamish BC
604-898-9843
Mag's 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina on Urbanspoon