First Look: Tacofino Tacobar in Gastown

Tacofino opened up their new Gastown location recently, so Wicca and I plus a fellow blogger went to check it out. Tacofino Gastown consists of their takeout Burrito Bar and their sit-down Tacobar. We tried their Tacobar on a chilly Tuesday night.

Tacofino Gastown is located on Cordova and Carrall, but to enter the Tacobar, you have to go in through the back entrance through the delightfully-named Blood Alley. They’re going to set up a patio as soon as the weather improves, but the dumpsters are right there, so…

I think it looks great. Love the brick. Very Gastown. But, same as with many Gastown restaurants, the “street element” is right there, so your food and drinks might come with a side of guilt.

There’s a fair-sized bar…

…and 2-tops and 4-tops, with some very comfy bench seating along the wall. There are a few coveted booth tables at the back that have a view of the kitchen. I wish we could’ve sat back there cuz the lighting is much better back there.

Click to embiggen.

Full menu is available on their website but prices listed there are already out-of-date.

Their beer list is not bad! Love seeing Port Moody’s Yellow Dog Brewing listed. Would love to see a sour beer on there cuz I think sours would be very interesting to have with Mexican food. Minor niggly is that they don’t list how many ounces you’re getting. My guess is that they’re serving 16oz pours.

We went to San Francisco in 2013 and saw Shishito Peppers everywhere! It was like the hot new appy. Oaxacan Corn Fritters look interesting…

OMG Chicharones! I wonder how they’d serve Chicharones? The Glazed Beef Rib is the most expensive thing on the menu at $20. Lemongrass?? In a Mexican-influenced restaurant?

They also have tostadas and tacos.

Gotta try the Churros to help wash away the crappy churros at España.

I like the menu. It’s varied yet compact, includes the usual Tacofino Commissary stuff like nachos and tacos, but also branches out a bit with their “plates” section.

Yellow Dog Smoked Porter. Very smooth, easygoing porter with just enough smoke that totally blends in with the character of the beer without being overpowering.

Mango Jarritos.

Cute little barrels at the bar. I assume there’s some hard liquor inside.

Food time! Chicharones with Yucca, Crispy Pork Belly and Slaw. This was a stunning plate. I didn’t have many expectations as to how things were going to be presented, and no expectations regarding notions of “authenticity”, but I was really blown away by this dish. Anyone else in town serve chicharones like this?? I don’t think so.

Shishito Peppers with tamarind salt. Shishito peppers are waaaaay down on the heat scale, pretty close to bell peppers, so anyone can enjoy these. Bit of smoky char, tangy sour salt to dip. I liked it a lot more than Wicca or Charity. It’s beer food! The peppers don’t taste like a whole lot by themselves, but with the salt I think they’re great.

Salmon Ceviche with “chinook salmon, salmon skin chicharone, tomatillo, herb salad and chips”.

Wicca tasted pineapple in this but Charity and I were unsure about that. I’ve only known white fish & cephalopod ceviches, so still think salmon ceviche is a bit weird, but flavourwise I think it was what could be expected of ceviche. They use the same robust tortilla chips that we’ve had at Tacofino Commissary.

Oaxacan Corn Fritters with chili lime and cotija (hard Mexican cheese). AMAZING! Along with the Chicharones, a highlight dish of the night.

The corn fritters taste of sweet corn, were a bit crispy, a bit spicy, a bit citrusy, a bit creamy. It all came together wonderfully and we were all in agreement that this was a standout dish. Perhaps a restaurant-defining dish.

Ok, lemme put you out of your misery! *HERE* is the Chicharones with yucca, crispy pork belly and slaw. Stunning.

The lightest and LOUDEST chicharones in town! CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!!!

I dunno who or how they came up with this dish, but along with the corn fritters, the Chicharones hit it on all levels. Crispy and loudly crunchy chicharones (pork rinds), nicely spiced, along with mild jalapenos, small fried chunks of dense yucca root, cubes of crispy and fatty pork belly, and a creamy slaw underneath…it all worked together to create another restaurant-defining dish. This might not be authentic but I think it still respects Mexican flavours while elevating and refining it, but still being accessible and outright delicious. Is this the start of nu-Mexican in Vancouver?

Lamb Birria taco with herb salad, arbol chili, pickled nopales (cactus), preserved lemon zest. Charity said it tasted great. So much meat that she had to eat half of it with a fork first before being able to fold it and eat it like a taco.

Octopus Tostada with grilled pacific octopus, avocado-jalapeno crema and chili oil. I liked the tender, smoky charred octopus but it desperately needed more seasoning. Wicca thought the flavour got a bit samey and tiresome towards the end. I tried a bite and agreed that even a bit of salt would’ve done the trick. We asked for some salsa and the salsa verde they brought helped a bit.

A slight misstep: all the lime wedges were bone-dry. We got some fresher full wedges from the bar and things were all good.

Glazed Beef Ribs with Chilaquiles with lemongrass, habanero, kale and peanuts.

Two big beef ribs per order. The glaze smelled of lemongrass, bringing to mind lemongrass pork chops and other Asian bbq type sensations. Habanero element was non-existent but didn’t really matter.

The combination of lemongrass and peanuts made this a very Vietnamese-inspired dish.

The ribs were cooked rare, to our surprise and to my delight! I ended up eating most of it. Very tasty dish that’ll make your hands messy and leave meat and sinew in your teeth, but if you like rare beef you might like this dish. The chilaquiles didn’t really register. A bit awkward to eat the rib with your hands then pick up wet, limp chilaquiles with your fingers…unless you want to keep wiping your hands between bites to pick up a fork.

Last beer to round off the night: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA. A big but not too big IPA with citrusy, hoppy aromas and flavours. Strong yet balanced.

Churros with agave glaze and spicy cinnamon.

YES! These “churro bites” are totally shareable and delicious! These really helped us wipe away the memory of crappy churros. That sticky glaze means you don’t need any dip with these.

Light, soft and fluffy inside, a bit crispy outside. If you like donuts, churros or beignets, you’ll LOVE these.

Came to exactly $100 for the three of us! It’s not cheap Mexican here, more like restaurant-Mexican with restaurant-level food 😉 Totally worth it and we’d go again!

Tacofino Burrito Bar on Urbanspoon

BONUS: Soft Peaks Organic Milk Soft Serve

We were looking forward to trying a bit more dessert at the newly-opened Soft Peaks, just a block away from Tacobar…

DAMMIT! >:( Closed Monday to Wednesdays until their grand opening in February! Sigh…

Good to know…

3 thoughts on “First Look: Tacofino Tacobar in Gastown”

  1. Wow, very thorough review on Tacofino taco bar! I’m also a amazing of shishito peppers – just fun to eat with the right amount of kick! The beef ribs look incredible as do the chicharones. Churros look really really nice! I don’t know if that’s just the “Mexican way” of serving them, but in Spain they ALWAYS come with liquid chocolate as a dip… I just can’t see churros in another way anymore, I need the chocolate! But these ones might do it, they look delightful 🙂 I can’t wait to see your review on Soft Peaks!

    1. Hi Mish! Wicca sez they were indulgent enough without a dip, so she didn’t miss the chocolate sauce. Although adding a chocolate sauce or a yogurt with dulce de leche would be mindblowing! 😉

  2. On a side note, I grew Shishito peppers (and Padron’s) in my back yard last year – talk about prolific! – I was giving them away by the bag-full to some very grateful friends and relatives. If you’re in any way inclined to garden I suggest growing your own and saving a lot of $$


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