From bricks-and-mortar restaurants to the food cart whiz kids, Vancouver's taco artists have come up with a winning line-up of classic and fusion options
Foodies know: the humble taco is full of potential. Mexico’s finest culinary export is a blank tortilla allowing chefs to engage in a fierce fiesta of invention. And Vancouver chefs have taken up the challenge.
They start with freshly made, warm corn tortillas. They add expertly cooked, locally sourced fillings. They top them with taqueria-style guac, pickled red onions, cilantro, and every chili-fied salsa you've ever encountered: from smoky guajillo to kickin' habanero.
Here are your best bets for authentic and delicious tacos in Vancouver.
What began as a Tofino-based food truck has grown up into Tacofino Commissary, a 50-seat restaurant in Vancouver’s East Village. The menu, too, has matured, featuring more mains including a poke tostada and a beer-braised beef burrito.
But the real draw remains the unparalleled fish taco: crispy ling cod, cabbage, chipotle mayo, salsa fresca on a warmed flour tortilla for $5. If you still have room, and you will, try the new pork cheek taco with cabbage, fried shallot, pineapple and a killer sriracha kick ($6). Wash 'em down with a hard-to-find brewski from Tofino Brewing.
This Main Street Latin American street food joint is a new venture by the owners of The Cascade Room. Diners are drawn to the rich smell of braised beef short ribs mingling with sizzling white corn tortillas which you can detect a block or two in either direction.
Settle at El Camino's patio for prime time hipster watching, and pick any of the taco sets (2 for $6.50). It’s hard to go wrong; favourites include pollo (roast chicken, tomatillo cream, green onion, jalapenos) and the pescado (fried baja cod, smoked chili slaw, pickled red onion, chipotle crema).
Or try the Columbian version: an arepa. The grilled corn pocket holds more than a taco. If you pick just one, down the carne guisada: braised beef short rib with carmelised onions and chimichurri.
Vancouverites have been making the trek to Commercial Drive to visit the Bandidas Taqueria girls - two former school teachers turned taco bandits - for years. Known for its potent mason jar margaritas and vegetarian tacos, Bandidas has proved its staying power.
Bandidas ticks all the boxes an authentic taco stand must tick: salsa and tortillas are freshly made and the tortillas are small - about the size of a burger bun. The veg ingredients however, show off the resto's creativity. The Ronnie Russell (3 tacos for $7) is a must-try: roasted yams, toasted pumpkin seeds and crispy purple cabbage mingling with fresh made guac, black beans and a zippy green salsa.
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop
Look for the rainbow mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe (322 West Hastings and 2549 Cambie) and you’ll also find the taco destination with the most choices and the most thorough list of locally sourced ingredients.
La Taqueria serves 12 taco options styled after Mexican street food. If you’ve made it a couple of borders south, you’ll agree they pass the authenticity test. Tacos run four for $9.50. Must-try menu options include de lengua (braised beef tongue), rich pollo con mole (Maple Hills chicken with spicy chocolate sauce) and the sweet and sour al pastor (Chilliwack marinated pork with chili, achiote, and pineapple).
It’s impossible to talk Vancouver tacos without a shout out to the pan Asian fusion tacos. While many rave about Roaming Dragon’s Korean Short Rib Taco, the true kings of Korean fusion are the boys behind Cartel Taco food cart, located at Hamilton and Dunsmuir Monday to Friday.
Cartel cooks up grass-fed Pemberton Meadows ribeye and free range Fraser Valley pork into decadent Bulgogi-Korean style bbq. After the marinating (soy, chili, sesame oil, spices) and braising is complete, all the chef has to do is let the meat speak for itself. It comes in a warm corn tortilla with a sprinking of onions and cilantro. Four tacos are $10.