There’s something I need to admit to all of you out there.
I love tacos. I really do. It all started way back when I didn’t know any better and I would beg to go to Taco Bell at any time of the day. Mind you, this was back when I didn’t know how to drive, didn’t know how to get anywhere, and relied on older family members to cater to my intense pregnant-like cravings. What do you want to eat? Insta-answer: Tacos. Nothing but.
Getting a little older, I learned of the magic of Old El Paso taco seasoning and ground beef. So there I was, high school student and little brother, mixing up beef and powder, white flour tortillas, poorly cut lettuce and pre-shredded cheese. I was more than satisfied. I was happy.
Then comes college, the first time I was ever really constantly out of my house. I spent my days and most of my nights downtown Montreal going to school, doing homework, and eating and drinking with friends. The first time I hit up bars and restaurants, for no special reason other than we were tired and hungry and too far from home. Places like Mesa 14 opened up a whole new world of Mexican cuisine. The Three Amigos were my three amigos. Tacos that were prepared fresh and hot to my liking, with no pre-shredded cheese or canned salsa. Surely, this cannot get better. And then we went on vacation.
We actually went to Mexico. The land of chili, lime, and cilantro. Sure we were on a resort with the standard buffet fare, but then we ventured to the village markets, off resort property. I’ve been to Mexico twice now, and both times, the best food is off the resort. Sure, you’re risking food poisoning and germs that your body isn’t used to. But, let me tell you, it is all worth it.
And now where do we stand? My love affair with this wonderful beacon of hand-sized heaven. We stand, my friends, with the gourmet. The daring. The trendy. We stand among great chefs that do more than ground beef and seasonings. More than just your plain and packaged flour tortillas. We stand with pork belly, jalapenos, fancy things like “aioli”, with individual tacos that cost more than a meal at McDonalds.
On a chilly Friday night, we stand in front of Grand Electric Bar.
1330 Queen Street West, Toronto
I don’t know how to describe this place with any words other than super hip. The first time we tried to go, we made the mistake of getting hungry before deciding on the restaurant. The wait was to be 1.5 hours. This time, even though we arrived about 15 minutes after opening, the wait time was the same. I hear you have to line up before they open to actually sit at 6pm. The restaurant is decorated in vintage wood with the menus and specials written up on chalkboard. The whole place had a rustic western feel to it, like I was in a smoky saloon that had Jay Z performing all night. In addiction to the lovely warm feeling of the place, loud rap and hip hop was playing all night. The ambiance was amazing.
We sat at the bar, which was great because there was a lot of room for our dishes.
Tip: There are hooks underneath where you can put your coats/purses.
We ordered some drinks, bourbon and tequila and they were mighty strong. So, a warning, if you aren’t used to not-girly drinks that don’t taste like sugar.
Guacamole and chips with a large slice of pig fat in the middle. The guac and salsa were pretty standard, nothing crazy, but delicious all the same. They had sprinkled some sort of salty cayenne seasoning on the chips which really enhanced the flavours of the dish together. I took a bite of the pig fat because I had never tasted it before, and well, it was pig fat. Really delicious but too rich and oily for me to be eating the whole thing.
Tuna ceviche on a fried tortilla covered in cilantro, radish, onions, and jalapeno aioli. This is raw tuna so don’t order if you’re squeamish about raw fish. This dish was nice and Saney went crazy all over it.
“The tuna ceviche is booooommmbbbb. It’s sooooo good.” – Verbatim
The tacos!!! They were a little small but it was to be expected. However, their size is not at all proportionate to the flavour they pack. Each one was super decadent and flavourful. You can’t help but savour every bite. From the top going clockwise, we’ve got: Fish taco, pig tail, beef cheek, and pork belly. The fish tacos were topped with some slaw, chives, onions, radish, and if I recall correctly, mayo. The beef cheek had a guacamole and fresh jalapeno (not pickled!) topping and the pork belly had a cilantro and steamed pineapple topping. Everything was tender to a fault. Juicy. Extravagant. A delight. And definitely gone too fast. I was very excited to try to pig tail and it was unlike anything I’d ever had before. Almost a cross between foie gras for texture and crispy BBQ pork. The beef cheek was almost like pulled pork, but a great deal more delicate. Extremely juicy. The pineapple on the pork belly gave this taco a whole other dimension. It enhanced the smoky flavour and gave it a nice tang.
Oh what I would do to eat here again. I definitely need to eat here again.
Next up was the fried chicken that had a fancy name. It was probably Pollo Frito. Let me begin by saying that this photo does not at all do this dish justice. The chicken wings were piled high, topped with a mixture cilantro, chili peppers, jalapeno, and cooked lime, and then drenched in this sweet, sticky, spicy, garlicky sauce. It was heaven. There was no effort to share, it was eat as much as you can before it’s all gone. The chicken was crispy and tender. Drenched, but maintained it’s exterior texture. It was like magic. The spice was subtle but definitely there. It wasn’t overpowering to the point where you want to stick a fire extinguisher in your mouth, but it was enough to satisfy. Everything tasted fresh and the flavours married each other so well. Best chicken wings ever.
If I could, I would eat here all the time. I would brave the mildly cold Toronto winters, the stinky summers, the terrifying nights. I would do it all for Grand Electric. (It’s legal to marry a restaurant, right?)