Something’s not right here…Sal y Limón in “Fraserhood” has been around since 2012 and has perpetual lineups, but reviews of them are all over the place. Some gushing praise, some bitter disappointment. I guess it’s expected with a place so freaking popular, that every Tom’s Harry Dick is gonna get on Z*mato or Welp and wax lyrical about those big-ass burritos. Here’s my take on this place after eating seven tacos.
Sal y Limón is flanked by Straight Outta Brooklyn (review of their downtown location here and here, applies equally to this location) on the left and Alenka European Foods on the right. SOB pizza slices are great when they’re hot. My enjoyment of them decreases by a lot once they cool down though, but they reheat well if you need them to-go. Alenka has some great sesame seed halva along with other eastern European deli foods. Ba Le (the Vietnamese banh mi place) is also part of the same strip mall.
Sal y Limón has a massive menu, but it’s mostly reconfigurations of the same basic proteins in taco, burrito, quesadilla, or huarache form. Sorry, I can’t find a full, up-to-date menu online.
Speaking of quesadillas…
This might be part of the appeal with this place. Big, cheap, and fast. Actually, the “cheap” and “fast” part might be debatable if you read all the reviews online…
I *do* support out-of-the-ordinary things like this tarta de limón, though! But lemme check out their basic tacos first before I commit.
Beer, yes! Mexican beer, hmmmmm…maybe under special circumstances, but let’s try their actual tacos first.
Tacos are $2.60 now. Seems like last year they were $2.25 but I understand that the price of meat increased a lot over the past few years. We also got a couple tongue (lengua) tacos, and those are a bit more expensive at $2.75 each. Ultimately, price does not matter to me much if the flavour is there.
Wicca does not do onions, so no onions on anything — just to keep it simple for the kitchen.
Once you get through that lineup (à la Meat & Bread), you order, pay, then find a spot to sit down with your number.
Our food took about 25 minutes. A bit lengthy, but worth it if the food’s good…(?) Actually, I checked the timestamps on my photos and it only took 10 minutes. Sorry about that. Felt longer though…
I find that a lot of taco places have fillings that are laidback as far as flavour, intensity, and seasonings go. This salt grinder came in handy…but…read on…
Their famous salsa bar.
I’ve developed an allergic reaction to capsaicin over the past few years. I love spice but I break out in scalp and face sweats instantly.
We stuck to the milder salsas. Two avocado and one peanut.
Then I went back and got an arbol for fun.
Our order of eight tacos. Let’s look at each one in detail:
The fillings should be moist and flavourful enough to stand on their own, and the salsas are the bonus flavour pairing in your mouth.
The Carne Asada (Grilled Beef) looked like sliced hot pot beef. If it looks dry to you, well, it was. This was a theme with most of the tacos here. Dry and weakly-flavoured fillings. If you’re relying on the salsas to provide moistness and flavour, well…I view it as a disappointment and a fail. The fillings should be moist and flavourful enough to stand on their own, and the salsas are the bonus flavour pairing in your mouth. And what happened to using actual cubes of steak for carne asada?
The Chorizo (Mexican Sausage) was the driest chorizo I’ve ever had. When moistened with salsa, you end up tasting mostly salsa.
On a positive note, the tortillas are warmed up well and pliable. Nothing worse than a dry, unwarmed tortilla, so these guys win on that point. If anything, I could use a touch more grease cuz fat is flavour and these kinds of tacos should be at least a little bit greasy.
Al Pastor (Marinated Pork with Pineapple) is a kind of taco that Wicca and I disagree on. She does not like the flavour of pineapple in a taco. Me, I daydream about someone having a dedicated al pastor spit (trompo) with a pineapple rotating on top where the guy cuts and flicks chunks into the tortilla in his other hand. Anyways, this was one of the more flavourful tacos but still I got chunks of dry, bland meat amongst the pineapple and sauce. At times choke-inducing 🙁
Lenga (Beef Tongue) is maybe our favourite taco — when done well. While this had a decent amount of meat, it was bland and didn’t make much impact. I added a couple cranks of salt but it didn’t help much to crank up the actual flavour. Depending on the taco, salt can save it, but there comes a point where salt can’t overcome lack of spices or seasoning.
Cochinita (Slow Roasted Spicy Pork). The theme continues. Underseasoned, like they pulled way back on the spices. Too bad cuz it looked like one of the more flavourful ones.
Barbacoa de Cordero (Roasted Lamb). This one was bordering on good. Almost like a lamb version of carnitas with the caramelized bits of meat. But again the dryness and blandness required salsa.
Pierna (Slow Roasted Pulled Pork). Same dilly.
One conclusion I have to draw from this place is that when you’re as constantly busy as this place is, flavour and quality is a moot point. If there’s enough people that think it’s good and keep your restaurant filled, that’s all that matters, right?
It boggles my mind that Sal y Limón is considered one of the best taco places in Vancouver. There has to be better. I pray that there is better.
Want to read more about tacos? Check out my review of the kick-ass tacos at Four Winds (it’s not “authentic”, but all the better for it), my teary-eyed retrospective of Chilo’s Taqueria, the stewy tacos at Tacomio, or the more-flavourful-than-Sal-y-Limón tacos at Molli Cafe. In fact, Molli Cafe is looking shit hot in comparison right now…