If you are looking for tortillas, quesadillas and churros in Toronto, you’re in luck. The city is bursting with Mexican restaurants serving a range of traditional dishes.
Mexican food is quickly becoming the fastest-growing cuisine in Toronto. Thanks to Canada’s ever-expanding population of immigrants and greater demand, diners are spoilt for choice when it comes to authentic Mexican fare. So skip the fast-food chains and Tex-Mex dishes for something that’s packed with soul and flavor.
Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
No matter what time of day you visit El Catrin, chances are both the indoor tables and expansive outdoor patio will be packed. With a menu created by one of Mexico’s top chefs, Olivier Le Calvez, the large selection of tapas will leave you wanting to come back again and again. Step inside to feel as if you’ve been directly transported to the colorful country, with a hand-painted mural decorating the walls, lively music and a display of 120 different spirits, making El Catrin Canada’s largest mezcal and tequila bar.
Rebozos may not look like much from the outside, but Torontonians know this is the best place to grab a delicious tortilla on the cheap. If you can’t decide what to get, go for the barbacoa – a toasty tortilla topped with steam-cooked lamb, spicy salsa, refried beans and whatever your heart desires. Rebozos also has a food truck, which can often be spotted at festivals around the city. Just keep your eyes peeled for the yellow truck!
Those visiting Kensington Market for the day would be remiss to skip Seven Lives. This tiny shop has about 10 seats, so get here early if you want a sit-down experience or if you plan on eating the meat tacos (they often sell out). For seafood lovers, the fried mahi-mahi is perfectly seasoned, as is the octopus tacos. This taqueria also has a top condiment station, serving up a range of secret sauces. Note that the restaurant only takes cash.
Located in the Fashion District on King Street, Wilbur Mexicana is a delightful apothecary-inspired spot for lunch on the go. The idea for the restaurant was inspired by Wilbur Scoville, the chemist who created the Scoville scale for measuring the heat of chili peppers. The decor reflects the inside of a laboratory, making the space a refreshing change from typical taquerias. For something a bit different, try the bulgogi beef taco, made sweet by the pear toppings.
Follow your nose to this sweet treat Mexican bakery. While small in size, it makes up for it with an wide selection of freshly baked pastries. Pancho’s is perhaps best known for its churros (a steal at four for $5), which are filled with either chocolate, caramel or strawberry. For a taste of traditional Mexican baked goods, sample the concha – a simple yet delicious cookie.
Those in search of a Mexican fine-dining experience should look no further than Quetzal. Headed up by Grant van Gameren, this restaurant serves far more than your average tortilla. The space itself is sleek and modern, with a huge firepit the centerpiece. Be sure not to miss the selection of prime-cut meats, straight from the grill, ranging from lamb to rib-eye. Make reservations as far in advance as possible.
Nestled right in the cultural center of Toronto, next to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, this third location is the perfect addition to Andrew Richmond and Amin Todai’s chain. Designed by local street artists, the joint maintains its urban appeal and authentic dishes. For a twist on a traditional dish, the ceviche tostada is packed with tuna, guacamole, coconut milk and habanero. For vegetarians (and indeed non-vegetarians), the sweet potato taco is fully loaded with a bit of a kick from the pequin hot sauce. The margaritas here are the best in the city.
This humble spot is easy to miss – just look for the butcher’s sign on St Clair West. Housed inside a traditional butcher’s shop, this open-concept kitchen brings guests right into the action. A gringa is Itacate’s take on a quesadilla, mixing sweet and spicy thanks to the pineapple paired with al pastor-marinated pork. The fan favourite here, though, is the cow tongue taco – it’s surprisingly delicious and topped with super-hot sauce.
This completely vegan Mexican restaurant may still be relatively new to the scene, but it has quickly risen to the top. The greenhouse-esque spot is filled with cute, kitschy decor, including vintage chandeliers and bright-green chairs. Located in the Financial District, Rosalinda is the perfect place to grab post-work dinner and drinks. The roasted cauliflower tostada is a savoury favourite, and comes with a coriander-based salsa verde and toasted almonds.