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).

Mexican Chipotle Burger at McDonald’s

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTastersLocation: 1138 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

McDonald’s recently came out with a couple of “new” (I’m pretty sure both have been on the menu before) items called McTasters: the Thai Sweet Chili Chicken Sandwich, and the Mexican Chipotle Burger.

I tried the Mexican Chipotle Burger, and it was surprisingly decent.  It’s definitely one of the better new things I’ve tried at McDonald’s recently.

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTasters

The burger comes with “chipotle aioli sauce, crispy tortilla strips and a juicy beef patty, all on a toasted sesame and paprika ciabatta bun.”

It’s tasty.  The chipotle aioli sauce basically tastes like the dressing you’ll find on any number of Southwest salads, only with a mild spicy kick.  The crunchy tortilla strips add a nice bit of texture, and the cheese (which is unmentioned on the menu for some reason) ties it all together.

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTasters

The bun is interesting, too — it’s chewier and more dense than the typical McDonald’s bun, but it works.

It helps that the beef is the classic small McDonald’s patty, and not the Angus or the Quarter Pounder patty that they use in most of their limited-time items.  When it comes to the beef at McDonald’s, less is more; the slim old-school patty is the perfect size.

Solid Tacos at Grand Electric

Grand Electric Trinity BellwoodsLocation: 923 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: http://grandelectrictoronto.com/

Though Grand Electric doesn’t get nearly the amount of buzz that it did when it first opened, it’s still chugging along.  In fact, they’ve just recently opened a new location a bit further east on Queen (though it’s still on the west end of the city).

When I visited the original location a few years ago, they had some pretty out-there stuff on the menu, like a scrapple taco and pig head fries.

Grand Electric Trinity Bellwoods

The menu here is much less ambitious than that — there’s nothing beyond the usual suspects (chicken, fried fish, etc.).

It might not be particularly exciting, but if the two tacos I tried were anything to go by, they still know exactly what they’re doing.

Grand Electric Trinity Bellwoods

The first one I tried was the shrimp taco, which consists of a few generously-sized pieces of fried shrimp topped with a zesty sauce, lettuce, onion, and cilantro.

The shrimp is nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked, with a crunchy exterior that doesn’t overwhelm.  The sauce basically tastes like a variation on shrimp sauce, and the other components add a good amount of freshness.  It’s a solid taco.

Grand Electric Trinity Bellwoods

Up next was the Carne Asada, which features steak topped with cilantro, chopped onions, and a couple of salsas.  This was even better than the shrimp; the steak was super tender and very nicely marinated, with a nice vibrant flavour that never overwhelms its beefiness.  And the salsas compliment it perfectly.

Great Tex-Mex Tacos at Hotmess Tex Mex

Hotmess Tex MexLocation: 615 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.hotmesstexmex.com/

Hotmess was selling tacos at the recent Taste of Little Italy festival; having heard nothing but good things about their Tex-Mex grub, tying it out was a no-brainer.

They were doing beef, chicken, and corn tacos; I went with beef.  It was quite good.

It’s very simple: spiced beef, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, and cheddar cheese served in a hard shell tortilla.

Hotmess Tex Mex

It’s basically Taco Bell if Taco Bell were really, really good.

The beef was nicely spiced, and unlike Taco Bell, it actually has the taste and texture of beef.  How about that!  The lettuce and tomato are fresh and crunchy, and the cheese adds a nice salty bite.

The shell is probably the highlight, oddly enough.  It’s obviously freshly fried, and it’s glorious — the level of crunch is profound.  It’s ridiculously satisfying.

Sandwich Perfection at Tortería San Cosme

Tortería San CosmeLocation: 181 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.sancosme.ca/

I recently mentioned that the sandwich at Egg Bae was fine, but that it was a bit one-note; the flavours and textures were all monotonous, and it was kinda boring to eat.

The Conchinita torta from San Cosme is the exact opposite of that.  It’s an almost absurdly well-balanced sandwich.

It was my first time back there since it opened; it was very good then, and it’s even better now.  The torta I just had was dangerously close to sandwich perfection.

Tortería San Cosme

The sandwich comes with pulled pork, refried beans, habanero onions, and fried plantains.

It’s ridiculously good.  All the elements work together in such perfect harmony.  There’s the tangy pork (which is super tender, but still has some texture) and the creamy beans, which balance perfectly with the mild sweetness of the plantain.  The pickled onions add crunch, and their vinegary bite helps to cut the richness from the pork and beans.

Tortería San Cosme

Then there’s the crispiness from the fried plantains, not to mention the amazing bread, which is lightly crispy on its exterior and delightfully fluffy inside.

It’s kind of absurd how good the sandwich is.  The contrasting flavours and textures are like a perfectly orchestrated symphony.

Tortería San Cosme

And it’s made even better with the house-made pickled jalapenos they have on the counter.  These things are so good, with an assertive crunch, a vinegary bite, and a mild spiciness.  You assume the sandwich can’t get better than it already is, then you add a few of those, and yeah — somehow it gets even more delicious.