Decent Mexican Food at Tacos 101

Tacos 101Location: 178 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/tacos101toronto/

After a long hiatus (their original location on Dundas East shut down three years ago), Tacos 101 is back, this time in Kensington Market.

I don’t think I ever visited the original location (or if I did, it wasn’t memorable enough to stick in my brain) so I can’t comment on how it compares to the Dundas location, but it’s a decent enough addition to the area.

Tacos 101

Their specialty is al pastor, a style of taco that’s filled with pork cooked over a rotating spit, shawarma-style.

Tacos 101

Mostly, it’s pretty good — the various sauces are zingy and tasty, the pork is nicely seasoned, the pineapple adds a brightness that contrasts nicely with the savoury pork, and the two corn tortillas are fresh and hold up very nicely to the overstuffed taco.  But the pork is almost entirely lacking in the crispy bits that makes this style of cooking so delightful, and it’s crazy dry.  They’re supposedly using pork shoulder, but the meat has the texture of the driest piece of pork loin that you’ve ever had.

Tacos 101

Everything else about the taco is tasty enough that this isn’t a huge issue, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

I also tried the tortilla chips with refried beans and guacamole — both dips were quite tasty, though the refried beans were a bit underseasoned, as were the chips themselves.

Tacos 101

In the case of the chips, apparently the lack of seasoning is on purpose to highlight the flavour of the dips, and, uh, I don’t think that’s the way food works?  All of the elements of a dish need to be seasoned or the whole thing will lack flavour (this is why, for example, you have to aggressively salt your pasta water, even if you’re going to toss the pasta in a flavourful sauce).

Mediocre Tacos at Wilbur Mexicana

Wilbur MexicanaLocation: 552 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://wilburmexicana.com/

Wilbur is one of those places with a perpetual line out the door, and having just tried it for the first time, I’m not sure why.

That’s not to say it was bad. I just had two tacos, and they were both fine.  But in a city as suffused with taco joints as Toronto, “fine” isn’t much.

Wilbur Mexicana

I will say that their hot sauce selection is impressive.  They have a few dozen bottles to choose from, not to mention a bunch of homemade sauces as well.  If you want to add some spice to your taco, I can guarantee you’ll find something that strikes your fancy.

I tried a couple of tacos: al pastor (“pork, grilled pineapple, onion, cilantro”) and bulgogi (“Korean beef, cabbage, pear, sriracha, sesame seeds”).

Wilbur Mexicana

I was most excited to try the al pastor, which is essentially Mexico’s take on the shawarma.  But there were none of the crispy bits you associate with shawarma; it was just dry, personality-free lean pork brought to dessert levels of sweetness thanks to whatever they marinated it in and the pineapple.

It came on a corn tortilla that was dry, crumbly, and stale.  A note to all restaurants serving corn tortillas: cook them fresh or GTFO.

Wilbur Mexicana

The bulgogi, surprisingly enough, was way better.  It was also quite sweet, but it had some savoury complexity to round things out.  The beef was a little bit dry, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the pork.

The tacos came with a handful of tortilla chips on the side.  They were a huge upgrade over store-bought; they were way better than the tacos.