On this week’s Foodie Tuesday,it’s all about.. you guessed it, Tacos! Ah tacos, the beloved Mexican and Latin American street food, to get it right is actually quite difficult.
Luckily in Vancouver, you will find the taco scene is slowly becoming the hot topic, with hip little taquerias popping up everywhere, line ups, sizzling marinated and tender cuts of meats, traditional garnishes,salsa,pimentos and spices, and chefs going with free range and sustainable options; the expansion is surely exciting.
Today’s review will go from the cheaper end of where you can get tacos(under $10) to the more expensive fare(above $10) and of course middle ground too!Taste,service,and variety will all be considered. Which one will be the winner? Read on to find out!
1. La Taqueria
Location: 2549 Cambie St (Broadway City Hall stop)
This fun little restaurant is always busy with workers trying to pick up some delicious cheap food to go, or groups of friends sipping on Horchatas and eating tacos.
It has an upbeat jive to it’s interior, it’s clean, fresh looking, bright baby blue and mexican-hipster? If that’s a thing.
They have a pretty decent variety of tacos, a veggie menu and a meat menu. But mind you the veggie menu, isn’t boring at all. From marinated “tofu” meat in secret sweet and spicy sauce to sauteed mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce and refried beans with Mexican cheese… absolutely delicious! The meat menu also boasts classics like pork and pineapple(carnitas), chipotle chicken, beef flank,marinated steaks and exciting options like chocolate mole chicken and soft fish in chipotle mayo with pepitas and radish.
The price is also right! For meats a taco is 2.75 each or 4 for $9.50! For vegetable options, it’s cheaper at $2.25 per taco or 4 for $7.50. I always mix and match and have 3 tacos(already filling enough trust me) and my bill never crosses the $7 line!
They also offer fun drinks like soda,horchata,Mexican cola in fun bottles.
In fact some of their tables are lined with Mexican cola bottle caps. So cute!
The ordering process is you place your order(while awkwardly failing at the pronunciation) and then they call your name or deliver it to you at your table. Water is self serving, and there is squeeze bottles of different condiments/salsas and pickled vegetables to go along with your tacos if you so desire. I find that the service is pretty fast, and you get your tacos warm,double soft taco shelled and stunning in terms of presentation.
Flavor wise, I tried everything on the veggie menu and loved it. I tried a few on the meat menu and loved it. The meats are tender and juicy and overall I think they have their flavors down since they all meld together in delicious harmony and into your eager mouth and heart.
Location:Unit #5 701 Kingsway street
Sal-Y mon is one of the taco places everyone is constantly talking about. Upon arriving you are presented with a menu and one lady at the counter hustling to get orders in and out.There is a table with little paper condiment cups and various amounts of condiments and salsas labeled neatly. So basically take as much as you like to bring back to your table. There menu is pretty simple, with a variety of different meat options such as “grilled beef”, “Mexican sausage”, “lamb marinated in cilantro” , chicken, pork and one vegetarian option with zucchini and veggies.
I started off with a horchata. It was creamy,sweet and delicately spiced with vanilla and cinnamon. Quite refreshing and thirst quenching.
For tacos, I went with grilled chicken,crispy fish and vegetarian with the addition of cheese on the vegetarian one(extra charge)
I found that these were quite greasy. The chicken was a little dry, but to be fair chicken is naturally just a drier meat. The flavors were nothing too special so I tried some of the salsas to go with it.
For three tacos I’m pretty sure the wait was more than 10 minutes which was sort of frustrating, but I guess they’re pretty busy most nights.
They also offer a range of burritos,tortas and quesadillas.
I also hear that they have expanded their shop, so hopefully it’s less cramped now. But overall my personal experience was on the disappointing side.
I thought their food could have been better flavor wise or creative and service could have been faster.
Prices for tacos are a flat $2.25 each or $2.75 with cheese, so quite on the cheaper side! So if you’re hungry, in the area and have a few dollars to spare, grab a seat and eat some warm, fresh tacos; just don’t expect too much for the quality.
3.The Fish Counter
Location: 3825 Main Street
A new funky shop is in town, and what does it sell? Fish and Chips! Well not quite just that, the menu boasts a variety of fishes, cod,halibut,tuna… all from sustainable farming, something they value dearly. They also have a menu of colesaws made from pickled cabbage and kale, crab cakes and daily soups like dairy free clam chowder and vegan options available. You could also buy fresh fish over the counter, just like you would at a supermarket. The fish and chips are everything you would expect it to be, good quality tender fish, salty exterior,golden crunch and generous amount of salt on the fish and fries.
I also tried their special that day, halibut tacos. And OMG let me tell you. They are good. And worth the $15 you pay for two. Though one is already a pretty decent filling snack since it’s bigger than your usual taco. The fish is soft,juicy and abundant marinated in sauce sitting on a soft taco. Roll and take a giant bite baby, and experience these flavours in your mouth.I also love that the fish were not deep fried meaning MORE FISH MORE YUM.
The kale colesaw was very tangy and filling and I think I spotted mustard seeds in the dressing.
Prices are on the upper end but you are promised deliciousness and good quality.
The shop has little seating, but the interior designing is surely beautiful,modern but also at the same time sea-sidy, like a shack you would find in Granville Island. There are benches on the inside and seats on the outside for people to enjoy their fish and chips in a large cardboard box.
You can also take a variety of things to go, like their house made pickled vegetables,fish cakes, sauces,marinades,pasta, and soups.
Location: 2037 East Hastings (Hastings-Sunrise neighborhood)
You approach a slick white door with a cute little taco cut out, obviously you open it and you are greeted with an ensemble of lights(or more like art) strings up all over the ceilings, along with little plants illuminating the stretches of long tables and seats across the store, kind of like cafeteria style but wayy cooler.
A server with a big smile greets you and hands you a menu, he/she periodically checks up on you,asks if your food is delicious and even refills your water even when it comes in a self serve glass bottle.
Tacofino is quite the legend in B.C, or at least in Vancouver.They have 3 food trucks, one located in Tofino,Victoria and Vancouver. Some people may follow their trucks religiously. Along with that, they also have a commissary on East Hastings, and the newly opened burrito bar and taco bar located in Gastown, which you can read the opening night review here.
One of my friends swears by their fish tacos, so I thought it was about time I gave it a try. I ordered their fish taco(filled with crisy deep fried cod,cabbage,chipotle mayo and salsa fresca) and a vegetarian squash and potato(leek,kale,cheddar,chili crema, and salsa fresca) just for all the vegetarians out there who want their tacos too;) These tacos are 2 for $10. My dad opted for their albacore tuna taco(soy, sesame, wakame, ginger, wasabi mayo) at $6. I also ordered a tortilla soup with braised chicken,avacado and tortilla chips.
How was the food?
The tortilla soup
Size was pretty small, and I detected little amounts of avacado or any other things promised on the menu like sour cream and cheese. Dad found there was too little soup in comparison to a load of tortilla chips and cilantro. There was however an abundance of braised chicken at the bottom, and it was pretty good. Upon first bite it was very sour or tangy tasting, probably a lot of tomato. No spice was detected.
The Fish Taco
Upon first bite, a lot of salsa fresca which was very tangy and acidic. The fish itself had a thick crunchy exterior, and I felt like it would have been better if there was more cod.
There was little of the chipotle mayo and I only tasted it near the end(and it started dripping all over my hands:()
Dad found it quite “Japanese style”, seared in the outside and raw on the inside. So kind of like tuna tataki if you’re familiar. He had little comment but it would have been better with a little mustard.But to be fair, unlike me,my dad is not usually very fond of Mexican cuisine to begin with.
Squash and Potato
The squash and potato had more of a crunchy texture, but still soft, but lacked flavor. All I could taste was an abundance of the acidic salsa fresca and melted cheese and random bits of kale unfortunately. The taco was also a harder one, and it was quite greasy, which I did not enjoy that much.
Though the effort and quality is there, the flavor just don’t quite come up to par with the raving reviews.
Though do go there on a rainy or cold Vancouver day and expect awesome people, decent food, and drinks and banana churros.
5.Tacobar (by Tacofino)
The newly opened taco bar is definitely has a more fancy and dining atmosphere. With more seats and a nice long bar, the interior is ultra chic,romantic and cozy. The menu is also more sophisticated and polished as opposed to the other locations. Intricate flavors that go well together, and quality dishes, it’s a nice place to get together with friends,family or significant other to enjoy some drinks,food and to celebrate an occasion. Prices are obviously on the higher end, but it won’t break the bank.
Again, you can find my full review on Tacobar on one of my previous posts:)
So are all this taco talk making you hungry. Because it sure is making me!
In the end, which was my number one choice?
Ever since that hot summer day when I sat down with friends and enjoyed a few nice tacos, I was hooked. I have been back several times, on my own or with different friends to try new things on the menu. My goal is to try every single thing on their menu, because they’re all so good! My go to favorite has got to be the tofu taco though;)
The Fish Counter comes to a second, but sadly only offers one type of taco;fish though it is indeed delicious. But less of the Mexican fare so I don’t know if it actually counts haha.
My least desirable choice would have to be Sal-Y Mon. Despite it’s hype reviews, I have to give it a pass. Just not enough flavor, too much grease and not great service.
And Tacofino fans, I’m not exactly a number one fan, I think I just need a bit more convincing and tasting, but it is definitely not the worse in any sense.
And thus that concludes my taco review. I’m hoping to try a lot more tacos in my lifetime, and will share with you if I stumble upon one that’s worth mentioning.
I hope you enjoyed this revision on Foodie Tuesdays, these are so much fun to write!
Until next week,