Chilo’s Taqueria: Kickstarting the Vancouver Taco Revolution

Chilo’s Taqueria holds a special place in my heart because they sorta kickstarted the whole authentic Mexican taco thing in Vancouver. Before Chilo’s, no one was serving taqueria-style or street-style tacos. Nowadays, there are lots of places to get decent-to-pretty-good tacos (Tacofino and the current king La Taqueria) but back then it was the next big thing that got the foodies excited.

The opening of Chilo’s in early 2006 also coincides with my early Internet postings about food (8 years ago this month!) on eGullet. In a way, Chilo’s kickstarted me writing about food online. I’m thankful that we lived just down the street from Chilo’s.

Chilo's Taqueria in 2006. Chilo on the left and Lupe on the right.
Chilo’s Taqueria in 2006. Chilo on the left and Lupe on the right.

First up, aside from the food (which was great), Chilo himself was a bit of a character. He told me he was a police officer back in Mexico and wasn’t really a chef or restauranteur or anything. So I felt that they really cooked from the heart and brought things that even now I don’t see much of, like cabeza tacos or tripe soup. He might’ve even included eyes and brains in his cabeza tacos! (Memory is a bit fuzzy on that point.) He had big dreams and attempted expansion into downtown Vancouver but that didn’t quite work out and soon the taco landscape would become more crowded with superstar salsa king Dona Cata (RIP and subject of a future post) opening up around September 2006 and current heavyweight title-holder La Taqueria in 2009. I can’t even recall exactly when Chilo’s closed down but for the Spring/Summer of 2006 I was really happy and excited about our growing local food scene. (Addendum: Chilo’s closed down ~June 2007)

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Top 2 tacos are carnitas, bottom 2 are suadero (beef brisket). Back then these cost $1.25 each!

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Tacos sans onions for Wendy. Chilo’s only had two kinds of salsa, a red one and a green one. Too bad my foodie photography was less…comprehensive…than it is now. I would’ve liked to see how his salsa looked.

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They even had freakin’ pozole (hominy/corn soup)!

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I’m getting a little hungry and sad right now.

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Chilo’s had beef tripe soup too! The tripe was so tender. Delicous.

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One time I got takeout. He seemed sad that I wasn’t eating in. It was delicous but soon after this Dona Cata entered the scene and I didn’t show my face at Chilo’s after that. He probably knew I jumped ship. Dona Cata had SEVEN SALSAS! As far as food goes, the stomach will always win out over the heart…

Wherever Chilo is now, I hope he and his family are doing well. This post is dedicated to his crazy trailblazing ways and the pleasure and happiness his food gave me.

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