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Mexican food restaurants in Vancouver: An updated post August 27, 2008

Posted by Raul in dining out.
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Last year, Rebecca asked me to write a review post for the best Mexican restaurants in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, given how widely read her blog is, she is the top result for Google.ca’s search for “Mexican restaurant Vancouver review”. Luckily, that is also precisely my guest post, so I’m just going to update it here.

REVIEWING MY CHOICES FROM THE GUEST POST ON REBECCA’S BLOG

5. First off, I don’t know exactly how I ended up recommending Las Margaritas as one of my top five choices, given that I had a horrible experience a few months later.

4. El Rinconcito Salvadoreño isn’t right now my fave for Mexican food, but Karen Hamilton recently went there, so read her review and come back.

3. Taco Loco. Haven’t been there in months, so I’m going to hold back on my recommendation.

2. Casa Blanca. Haven’t been there in months either, so holding back on my recommendation too.

1. Sadly, apparently Tio Pepe’s was horrible for a visitor to UrbanSpoon (which is too bad because my experience was good). So, won’t make the top 5 anymore. Ooops.

SO HOW DID YOU UPDATE THE POST? THE METHOD

The first step I took was to narrow down the UrbanSpoon listings for Vancouver’s Mexican restaurants. I then looked at the listing and checked which ones I have recently reviewed to get a general feel.

So, here is the list of Mexican restaurants in Vancouver that I’ve recently visited and that I would recommend, in order of how much I like them.

THE NEW LIST

1. Salsa and Agave – Delicious. Tasty. Authentic. Inexpensive. Best place to have lunch with someone you care for (which then explains why I have been there so frequently with close friends of mine!).

2. La Casita – Inexpensive, surprisingly tasty and authentic, and they make some of the best margaritas in town.

3. Tequila Kitchen – Really authentic, very good food, upscale. A bit on the higher end in pricing, but good and very much real Mexican food.

4. Delicados – Kind of Tex-Mex-y. But filling, and quick for a cheap and good eat.

And of course, everyone and their mother have been suggesting that I go to Doña Cata. I was going to go just before I had to come to Mexico, but you can rest assured that I’ll update this post with a review of Doña Cata as soon as I go there for dinner.

THOSE THAT SOME OTHERS HAVE RECOMMENDED AND I HAVEN’T TRIED.

– Topanga Café. Don’t ask me why, but I might venture.
– Andale’s. Not sure about how I feel about this, but may visit.
– Casa de Amigos. They moved, and now there’s Chica’s (another restaurant) but I will try them at their new location.
– Poncho’s. Rebecca and John Bollwitt swear by this restaurant, so gotta try it.
– Zocalo. Even though I live literally 10 blocks away, haven’t tried it. May do it, but not 100% sure.
– Mexicali. Um, no, really not sure if I want to go there.

There were other suggestions in the Lower Mainland, so I might go to the one in New Westminster (Ole Ole I think it was called) upon my return to Vancouver. In the mean time, feel free to drop a comment and/or suggest any other new Mexican restaurants.

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Comments»

1. Don - August 27, 2008

So you no like Lolitas?

2. Keira-Anne - August 27, 2008

John and Rebecca are right…Poncho’s is great!

3. Matt - August 27, 2008

As much as I respect John and Rebecca, the two times I’ve been to Poncho’s it was . . . acceptable, but inauthentic. In sort of a tomato paste and mozzarella/feta cheese sort of way.

Andales I’ve also eaten at maybe 3 or 4 times, and although my dinner was tasty, once again it was Can-Mex, rather than Mexican or even Tex-Mex. Mozzarella cheese abounded.

I understand that true Mexican ingredients are relatively hard to find in Vancouver, but if you’re a restaurant which specializes in a certain genre, really, you only have to find one or two good sources, and stick with them. Mexican cheese are readily available at Killarney Market on 49th, and Los Guerreros market on Kingsway (or even Monterey Jack is better than Mozzarella, and nearly every IGA or Save On has a brick of it tucked away somewhere). And the real killer? Cumin. Unassuming little brown spice which, along with chiles, is the soul of a lot of Mexican dishes. You can buy it anywhere, and yet it’s the most overlooked spice in Can-Mex. With it, you have Mexican. Without it, you have Italian. Simple as that.

Rant notwithstanding, here’s my native Texan twenty-word reviews of some of the rest of the places on your list, plus a couple of others. (will repost on my site later, as it’s postworthy on its own).

Doña Cata – The pinnacle of Vancouver tacquerias. Only wish their tostadas were worthy of their yummy salsas.

Taco Loco -Doña Cata’s greasier cousin. Authentic tacos. Very rich, non-fruity take on “Al Pastor”

La Casita – Pretty good Mexican restaurant which, ironically, tries to do some Tex-Mex (e.g. Texas style enchiladas) but which succeeds much better at the straight up Mexican.

El Rinconcito – Fairly decent Salvadoran food, but a little Canadianized.

El Caracol – Authentic hole-in-the-wall Salvadoran food on Victoria Drive. Good papusas and cabbage slaw.

Las Margaritas – Very good Can-Tex-Mex. It’s not authentic. Even downright weird sometimes (e.g. salmon burrito?!?). But well-executed. I like it in spite of myself. Expect apathetic UBC-student service, though.

Andales and Poncho’s – Thoroughly “whitened” Mex and Tex-Mex. Smothered in cheese, Texas style, but lacking in flavour. They’ll satisfy most Canadians, but are missing something for the people who grew up on this food.

Ole Ole – Authentic, but sort of uninspired hole in the wall Mexican in New West. I want to love this guy’s food, because he’s so nice, but both the food and atmosphere are kind of like eating at home those nights mom is away and dad cooks.

Tequila Kitchen – tasty, yuppie sort of Mexican (cf. Taco Diner in Dallas), for the Yaletown hipster crowd. Food is quite good, but somehow feels more like a snack than a meal. Menu feels incomplete.

There are several on the list I haven’t tried yet (Salsa and Agave), and several I probably won’t get around to trying (Tio Pepe’s), but there’s my unforunately-far-more-than-two-cents thrown in.

4. Barbara Doduk - August 27, 2008

Great stuff. Mexican is my favorite food, I had homemade burritos last night… I would really love to go to an authentic dive though and really go wide with the spicy spicy yums.

5. raincoaster - August 30, 2008

Without geocoordinates, I don’t even know if I’ve been to most of these. I’m all about the “the Mexican place, you know, sorta across from where Woodwards used to be, no not right IN Gastown, the other one” etc.

Las Margaritas is totally, TOTALLY hit or miss. I’ve had great stuff there, I’ve had horrible times as well.

I didn’t know Tequila Kitchen was authentic, but it sure is tasty. That cucumber cocktail may just be the perfect patio libation!

Topanga is not authentic, and it’s a complete madhouse, but by god is it good. I moved away from Kits almost two decades ago and still miss it.

6. Raul - August 30, 2008

@ Matt – OMG. I can’t believe you said that Las Margaritas is very good. I might need to reconsider our friendship 🙂

@ Raincoaster – I’ll update the post with a NEW post once I go to Doña Cata and I’ll include geo-coordinates.

7. raincoaster - August 30, 2008

You also can’t discount a place on the strength of one stranger’s review. I’ve been around the F&B industry too long; there are lots of backstories and so on that can result in a negative review that is completely undeserved.

8. Raul - August 30, 2008

@ raincoaster – Um, well, I have been to Las Margaritas 6 times and all of them the service was horrible and the food was UGH. The 5 times I went there after having given them a rave review I wasn’t a top food blogger (not to say that I am now) and so I didn’t write a review. But seriously, i don’t like their food nor their service. But they’re doing well as they are, apparently!

9. raincoaster - August 30, 2008

I was talking about Tio Pepe’s actually. Las Margaritas I haven’t been to in years, but have had some good stuff there at least twice in the past. I think it’s impossible to lose money on a Tex-Mex in Kits, though.

10. raincoaster - August 31, 2008

Oh yes, and I’m getting hooked on Red Burrito. I love the healthy fast food. I’m all about Red Burrito and Steamrollers when I’m out for fast food.

11. On the authentic Mexican food topic « Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment - September 3, 2008

[…] 3, 2008 Posted by Raul in Uncategorized. Tags: Mexican food, Mexico trackback I recently updated my post on places for Mexican food, and I got all sorts of feedback and suggestions for places to […]

12. degan - September 3, 2008

Doña Cata! But ok, after that I like Salsa and Agave and TK a lot. And since it’s across the street from me, I do go to Red Burrito a lot too.
I used to love Tio Pepe’s but haven’t been there in a while and the only thing I like about Andales is their blackberry margarita. I’ve only heard terrible things about Taco Loco, but I’m tempted to give it a try anyways. Inauthentic tho they are, I’m also a fan of the Lolitas/Me & Julio’s restaurants.

13. Matt - September 10, 2008

Red Burrito is indeed great for a Mexican-themed fast food fix (and I eat there a lot), but it’s hardly any more Mexican than Pizza Hut is Italian…..


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