Meditations

El Taco


el taco
Yet another stop on the continuing taco quest. El Taco (738 Davie St., Vancouver) opened its doors a few months back, as an off-shoot of a successful restaurant of the same name in Nelson, B.C.

While the menu claims “authentic Mexican food,” it includes a wide variety of items ranging from 5-layer dip (which seems more Good Housekeeping to me) to chilaquiles (which I have eaten in Mexico at a non-touristy place), and pretty much everything in between. Authentic or not, there’s something for everyone.

A father and daughter team own the two restaurants, with plans to open more in Vancouver this year. The place is cozy, with brightly painted walls, and a variety of Mexican artwork, including a shrine-like space dedicated to Frida Kahlo where we sat. There’s a small patio out front that might be good for a beer in the summer. Staff is friendly and prompt.

I started with the tortilla soup, a roasted tomato broth with tortilla strips, cheese, avocado, sour cream and cilantro. Let it be known that I love tortilla soup. And every time I have it, it seems to be prepared slightly differently. Whatever’s leftover in the kitchen that day, I’m guessing. And in this case, the roasted tomato broth was a change from other versions I’ve tried.

Of course, this is a taco quest, so it was time to sample the tacos. I ordered one chicken and one chorizo. I expected the small tacos that I have been trying at various places around town — the kind where I need three or four to fill me up. At El Taco I could have skipped the soup and still been stuffed with the two tacos: these things are huge! They came on two small corn tortillas and were loaded with meat, pico de gallo, lettuce and guacamole. Unfortunately they also contained black beans, which is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine. Save the beans for the burritos, please!

What I really liked about El Taco is how fresh the ingredients are. And after a quick tour of the kitchen, I could see why. They make everything from scratch using ingredients that look like they were just picked up at the market. Yum. They also make their own salsas; you can chose from four different ones at the little salsa bar. I just wish they’d get some larger cups in which to spoon the salsa.

Unfortunately, I actually found the food to be rather bland, which made me really appreciate that salsa bar. It wasn’t bad, just a bit bland. The owner told me they try to cater to all tastes and therefore allow customers to add their own salsa according to their personal tastes. Fair enough – you can always add spice, but it’s hard to add flavour, which is what seemed to be lacking.

So, what’s the final call? Not exactly the most authentic or flavourful Mexican place I have tried. But the fresh ingredients and homemade salsa bar score some bonus points. If you’re in the ‘hood this is probably your best bet for a decent quick, cheap meal, and you can wash down with a beer, margarita or sangria. Better than $1.25 pizza or Subway. Give it a go.

El Taco is located 738 Davie Street in Vancouver, BC; (604) 806-0300

El Taco on Urbanspoon

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