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Mags99, #TacoChallengeYVR

It is no secret that one of my favourite Tex-mex restaurants resides in Squamish, by Hwy 99. When the space originally opened it went under the name Mags99, and a few years back they rebranded: making updates to the decor, but pretty much keeping the entire original menu. Unbeknownst to me this was an entirely new restaurant, and Mags99 simply moved closer to downtown Squamish, to feed the community living in much of the newer developments. It wasn’t until Vancouver Foodster’s annual Best Taco Competition, and myself being selected as a judge did I learn this.

So today I was excited to see if Mags99 was as I remembered it to be. Located in a completely new plaza, the area feels like a downtown North Vancouver development, but in Squamish. This was a spacious layout with half of the room carved out for a bar/party section. The other bathed in purple and yellow, with gigantic posters advising their line up of fried chicken, poutine, quesadillas, and bowls.

Mag’s has many menu items overlapping with the new fried chicken and Mexican restaurant, that has taken up home on Hwy 99, but they also have other items to help them stand out on their own.

Like at the original Mag’s you order at the counter, pick your own available seat, and once your order is ready, you are called up to retrieve it.

We started off with their #TacoChallengeYVR entry. This is the Mag’s99 Chefs Kiss Taco. A deep fried taco shell dredged in cinnamon and sugar, topped with sweet ancho pork, lime slaw, and a spicy in house made salsa. Finished off with hot taki bits and a side of chimichuri sauce. There was a lot of flavours and layers to peel back on this one. You would not expect the sugary sweetness to pair well in this, but it some how worked with the pork and the fresh salsa. Intended as a churro taco, this sweet and salty combination had me thinking of a McD’s McGriddle. They were definitely going for originality points with this one. As to not give away the scoring (you will have to stay tuned for the round up post) I will end it saying this was like no other taco I have tried to date.

I saw it on the menu, so had to try their Char grilled Mexican street style corn on the cob. Served on skewers for easier chewing off the cob, I still found myself cutting the kernels down with a knife, as I didn’t want any to get stuck in between by teeth. You can tell that corn is not in season. The kernels were not sweet, just juicy. It relied heavily on seasoning, and each segment could have used a lot more spices, and some salt and pepper at least.

They also have burrito bowls, where as the other location doesn’t. This is their Burrito bowl with your choice of protein. We went for the crispy fish with a side of beans and rice with cheese. It ate exactly as expected, a deconstructed burrito made into a salad with shredded cabbage and no tortilla. Once again we found the seasonings to be lacking. It needed a sauce to coat things, a tangy citrus dressing to highlight the unseasoned fried fish perhaps? When we had the leftovers at home we added cherry tomatoes and a whole avocado and found it helped to provide freshness to the mix.

We did like their Five pieces of fried chicken. These large, juicy pieces of chicken dressed in mild spices were tops. We expected it to be dry given its lighter colour, but each hit the spot. I would say, better than their competing location, but the chimichanga wasn’t the same.

Mag’s use to be my go to for their Chimichanga, but having it here, at this location, it just wasn’t the same. I got my usual choice of protein in the sweet pulled pork, but there was far less of it and all the expected rice, beans, salsa and sauces stuffed within. The flavour also wasn’t as punchy as I had remembered. The sauce tasted familiar but was lacking a kick. I would suggest transforming this one with an addition of sour cream and maybe a new topping/side to make this this chimichanga something new and something different.

It is great that the locals get to enjoy Mexican food so close to home with Mag’s now serving this community. So be sure to try them and the only “sweet” taco in the competition and help vote for the people’s favourite at https://vancouverfoodster.com/taco-challenge/

Mags99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina
1257 Commercial Way, Squamish, BC V8B 0R5
(604) 657-6247

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