Monday, January 20, 2014

Taco Crawl (Part 1) The Mexican, Antojitos y Cantina

Our Food Crawl Collaborative Group decided we needed to wrap up 2013 with a crawl concept that we’ve been discussing since the earliest food crawls…TACO CRAWL!
I love dedicated, well- thought out, pre- planned food adventures. This is the third dish-focused food crawl that I've planned/participated in.
Vancouver isn’t exactly known for its amazing Mexican food. In fact, many would argue that although Vancouver is a real cultural mosaic rich with a wide variety of options for delicious, authentic, accessible ethnic foods…Mexican food options have been few and far between and more Taco Bell than Taquiera. But over the past few years, there seems to have been a bit of a taco revolution and more and more options for tasty tacos and Mexican food popping up over Van city.

The Food Crawl basics:
Four participants. Each participant picks a taco joint OR a specific taco dish they've been wanting to try. I drive the taco wagon (aka my Honda Fit) and come up with logistics, scheduling, route that makes sense. At each stop, we either have done our research and picked a taco OR ask our server for their most popular taco/ their recommendation. One taco per crawler per venue.
Let the adventure begin!

The Mexican, Antojitos y Cantina
The Taco: Carnitas (Secret recipe for tender braised pork), $3 each or 4 for $11

The Mexican on Urbanspoon


The Mexican is tucked away between nightclubs, bars, and shops on the Granville entertainment strip. This casual spot was packed when we arrived around 7pm and mainly full of people speaking Spanish. A good sign! Since it was busy, it was quite lively and a bit noisy from all the chatter. It’s clean with simple décor, latin music, and a large screen TV playing soccer. They’ve got a pretty extensive and delicious sounding menu and everything set at very affordable prices.
The Mexican was my taco venue choice, but I didn’t have my taco order fully decided. Based on research, I was waffling between the carnitas, milenesa, and lengua….I asked the server for the most popular choice or house favourite and he suggested the carnitas. This was probably the most traditional and most basic taco on our crawl. Each taco was a generous scoop of tender, flavourful (hint of orange flavour), rich, slow cooked shredded pork served on a two small corn tortillas. Just meat and corn tortilla with a small side of cilantro and diced onions that you can add as garnish. The corn tortillas here are stand out awesome- great flavour! And a special shout out for their delicious in house hot sauce. All in all, a good find with a fantastic sounding menu and great option for a meal on the Granville strip.

The Leggy Redhead:

Carnitas--- very simple, old school style.  Place we busy which is always a good sign.  Pork was nicely cooked, but needed a little love in the flavour department.  Unfortunately a little bland for my liking.  But, with hot sauce and salsa, good taco!  I'm not a fan of corn tortillas (usually too thick and dry for me).  Theses ones...super yummy!  So, for the person that likes to build their own layers of flavour, this place is a good choice. 

The Bad Jew:
Life Bites once again showed her impressive research chops by finding this little nook of Mexican goodness on the downtown Granville street strip which frequently leaves much to be desired.  Authentic feeling décor and atmosphere; footie game on the tele  – ‘natch.  Good prices to be found on the menu and more importantly, no backwards baseball caps or other signs of Granville St. douchbaggery.
First order of business was to lay out the ground rules for the Taco Crawl – four identical tacos to be ordered at each stop – one for each Crawlie (my newly minted term – let’s see if it sticks).  More importantly, The Bad Jew wanted to get a ruling on Tostadas – tacos for the purpose of the crawl or not?  The main difference appears to be that a tostada has a toasted tortilla vs. a soft tortilla for a traditional taco.  So if a hard shell taco gets the taco nod then surely a tostada should be considered a member of the taco family – right?  Contrary, albeit weak, points of views were expressed.  DING DING DING – The Bad Jew wins this ruling.  Give me a Chelada (beer with lime and salt for an extra $1) to celebrate my moral victory!
We went with the Carnitas taco described as “secret recipe for a tender braised pork”.  A generous helping of pork meat served with diced onion, cilantro, hot sauce and lime wedge.  The meat was moist, had a pleasant natural flavour and was nicely salted.  There was no added sauce on the pork which certainly felt traditional but a bit out of character for our fusion obsessed town.  The tortilla (which was served in the proper double stack style – props!) was springy and not too dry.  Overall, The Mexican served a solid, traditional taco – fancy pants diners may be disappointed.  One Crawlie was heard to say “Real Mexicans eat here”.

Excellent work on hitting the dirty beast right out of the gate on this crawl, Life Bites.  A fitting start to the Hanukkah holiday, The Bad Jew having lit the lights on the first night less than an hour prior.  I’m such a Bad Jew – shame on me and my stomach!

The Glib:

The first stop and taco provided the classic benchmark. This very Mexican eatery featured a traditional list of tacos, and the expected slower than expected service. It being the first day of Hanukah, Lifebitesmm got the Bad Jew off to a quality start with her choice of very un-Kosher, but very well prepared pork.

Its diverse cliental absent douchebaggery and drunk college kids belied the Granville and Nelson location. This will be a great lunch time venue to watch the FIFA World Cup in June. Expect a passionate football literate crowd.

Now, the taco. Simple pork, tender, without grease, on warm tortilla, served with a less than sufficient portion of raw onion and a wedge of lime. Some early hoarding left those late to the game without garnish. (A near tragedy for some remedied with some early evening cooperation and redistribution.) The selection of hot sauces gave the necessary heat to cause the flavours to punch through, and the evening was off to an excellent start. up, Part 2, Cuchillo...

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