La Taqueria—F*ing Taco Shop, Or how I lost my good car insurance rate
I love Mexican food. I hate the rain. Why am I living in Vancouver again? Oh yeah, true love. Well, if it wasn’t for true love, I’d get the hell outta here, that’s for sure. In the meantime, I dream of eating chile relleno beneath the baking sun.
While I’m complaining about Vancouver, let me also mention that I have yet to feel comfortable driving downtown. Since I avoid going downtown as much as possible, I don’t really know the streets. I certainly don’t know which ones are the one-way streets and which are the two-way streets. I seem to acquire directional dyslexia whenever I pass over a bridge into downtown. For all these reasons, I almost always make my husband drive when we are going downtown. But on one fateful afternoon last summer, I was driving.
There was a lot of traffic that day as we were traveling deeper into downtown along Hastings Street. My mother-in-law called my cell phone and I yelled at my husband to answer it. My son was trying to ask me a question. All in all, it was a recipe for disaster. And then, my husband pointed at what had been the old Nuba location on Hastings St. and yelled, “Look! La Taqueria!” Those words were like a siren’s song to my ears. I lost all control of my body. Time slowed. My eyes widened and my pulse raced; I could hear the woosh-woosh-woosh in my ears. I turned to follow my husband’s pointing finger and cried, “Where?!”
He yelled, “Look out! Brake! Brake! BRAKE!”
Time sped up to the normal flow. I whipped my head to the rear of the car in front of me, which was quickly approaching the front of my car. Oh no, actually, it was the front of my car which was rapidly approaching the rear of the other car. I slammed on the brakes, but in my dream-of-Mexican-food stupor, my body could not react in time.
What I learned that day was that I was willing to sacrifice the safety—possibly the lives—of my family for the mere prospect of Mexican food. Seems reasonable. Mexican food is really good, after all.
Months later, when I was finally able to pay a visit to La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop (translation = F*ing Taco Shop), I told the cashier about how my excitement at seeing a new Mexican place had jacked up my car insurance from $144.81/month to $167.60/month when I crashed into another car. He seemed indifferent. I guess car pile-ups happen outside their establishment all the time?
That’s okay, it was all worth it. Yep, that’s right, it was worth: the terror on my young son’s face (it is time he toughened up anyway); the crumpled body work (whatever, it’s a crappy car); the messed-up, post-accident adrenaline rush (hey, I survived), and the pricier car insurance (what’s an extra $22/month?). I’m willing to endure all this so that I can have yummy Mexican food.
On my most recent visit, I took pictures and detailed notes. Here is the low down.
This Pinche Taco Shop is hard to miss with a huge tiled mural of the Mother Mary above the front window. Beyond the window, the guys are hard at work making your tacos at lightning speed.
On the inside, El Diablo y María, la madre de Jesus, wrestle for control of the decor.
Between heaven and hell, it is standing room only.
If you see an open seat, grab it. Get to know your neighbour.
While I usually order the Carne Asada tacos, we went all out on “review day.” We ordered the Tacos de Cachete, al Pastor, Beef Fajita, Pescado, Pollo con Mole, and Carnitas. La Taqueria boasts that they use “natural, free-range meats, organic produce & wild, sustainable fish, locally sourced when available.” Sounds good. We stuck to the meat and fish menu this trip. No veggie tacos for us, although La Taqueria does have vegetarian and vegan options, such as the Tacos Frijoles Charros con Queso (veggie), Rajas con Crema (veggie), and de Picadillo (vegan), as well as Quesadillas (veggie).
First up were the beef tacos. The Tacos de Cachete are braised beef cheeks with fresh onion, cilantro, and lime. We swung by the salsa station and added Habañero sauce. The de Cachete tacos had a strong taste of cumin and chili. With the Habañero sauce, they had a little bite, but no burn. The Habañero sauce is flavourful, but not too spicy…as long as you keep it in your mouth. I accidentally let some drip onto my lips and then I could definitely feel the burn. The braised beef cheeks were tasty, but some of the meat was a bit dry. The Beef Fajita tacos, on the other hand, were wet and saucy. The shredded beef was intertwined with peppers and mild seasoning and topped with shredded cheese. My husband really liked these tacos.
Bring on the pig! Next up we had Tacos al Pastor and Carnitas. The al Pastor is pork marinated in achiote, chili, and pineapple. These were, hands down, my favorite tacos during this visit (although I still love my carne asada tacos). In addition to the onion, cilantro, and pineapple topping these tacos, we added guacamole sauce from the salsa bar. These tacos had a charbroiled, smokey flavour that was just dreamy. The Carnitas tacos—pork confit with pickled red onion—were a bit of a disappointment after trying Doña Cata’s seasoned Carnitas tacos. The Carnitas was somehow both greasy and dry at the same time. The foremost flavour of these tacos was the taste of oil. The Carnitas tacos were the least appetizing of the six we tried on “review day.”
Last up were the fish and chicken tacos. I had tried the Pollo con Mole tacos—Maple Hills chicken with chocolate mole sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds—on several occasions, as this is my husband’s old standby when we go to La Taqueria. Mole (Poblano) is a sauce that contains Mexican chocolate. It is usually dark brown and somewhat sweet. On this particular visit, it seemed like the Mole was extra chocolately. It was a lot sweeter and a bit thicker than it had been on previous visits. I added some Chili de Arbol from the salsa station to temper the sweetness and it was okay, but not great. The Pescado (fish) tacos, however, were amazing! I had actually never tried them before and that is truly unfortunate. The fish was not over-cooked, but fresh and moist. The tacos were topped with fresh salsa, cabbage, and lime. ¡Que rico!
La Taqueria meets all four of my Mexican food requirements. The tacos are: 1) recognizable as Mexican food; 2) delicious (the Asada, al Pastor, and Pescado are my favourites); 3) authentic (the yummy ingredients wrapped in two soft, fresh corn tortillas are the real deal); and 4) cheap! Meat tacos are $2.50 each or 4/$9.50 and veggie tacos are $2 each or 4/$7.50. I can even get my son to eat the plain quesadillas, which are 3 corn tortillas of melted cheese for $4.00.
They also sell Jarritos, my favorite soft drink, in several flavours.
The salsa station offers 4 different sauces—Guacamole, Chili de Arbol, Chipotle, and Habañero—to customize your taste experience, as well as pickled red onion and veggies.
La Taqueria is the only Mexican place in Vancouver (that I have tried) that I can recommend without hesitation. My only desire would be that it was a full-service Mexican restaurant and not only a taco shop, but I’ll take it. The one thing that does kind of suck about La Taqueria is that it cost me my low car insurance rate (I had a clean driving record until that fateful day—10+ years with no accidents!), but that little detail is easy to forget when I’m sinking my teeth into an authentic Mexican taco.
322 West Hastings St.