La Taqueria – Pinche Taco Shop

Restaurant: La Taqueria Taco Shop
Cuisine: Mexican/Tacos/Organic
Last visited: September 14, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 322 West Hastings St
Price Range: $10 or less

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4
Service: 5
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Since 2009
  • Mexican owned and operated
  • Specializes in ‘authentic’ Mexican tacos
  • Very popular to locals
  • Rated as “best tacos in Vancouver”
  • Home made fillings, corn tortillas & sauces
  • Organic/local ingredients
  • Natural free range meats/sustainable fish
  • Quick/casual
  • Long lines/busy during peak hours
  • Budget friendly/cheap eats
  • Vegetarian/Vegan friendly
  • Free water, couple Mexican drinks
  • Daily/weekly specials
  • Eat in/Take-out/Catering
  • Cash/Debit only
  • Mon-Sat 11am-7pm (Sometimes until 10pm, but depends)

**Recommendations: De Lengua (Beef Tongue), De cachette (beef cheeks), Pollo Con Mole (chicken), Rajas Con Crema (poblano peppers and creamed corn)

La Taqueria Taco Shop is a small little taco restaurant located in downtown Vancouver, BC. From the outside it looks like a hole in the wall, but the inside is actually decent with an open kitchen, bar and small tables.

It’s very popular to locals and very busy during peak hours. It’s popularly known as “the best Tacos in Vancouver” or “the most authentic Mexican tacos” in Vancouver, however that’s not saying too much considering there’s a lack of options for traditional Mexican food in Vancouver in general. Based on lack of options and little competition, the titles could be well deserved, however compare it to a taco shop in the States… and we’re a bit screwed. Sure it’s relatively cheap, but it’s considered really expensive if you compare it to places in the States.

Everyone raves about La Taqueria Taco Shop and it’s been on my “must try” list for months now. I drive by it a lot, but the first time I tried it was with Jonathan from Food and Tell at the Mexican festival last weekend. I was so impressed that I knew I had to check out the actual location ASAP.

It’s quick, casual and somewhat affordable, but you do pay for the local, organic and sustainable ingredients used for these “authentic Mexican street food tacos”. It was really a hesitation if I should label La Taqueria as “authentic” because it’s one of the best for Vancouver standards, but in the broad scheme of things… there’s better and better value just South of our border. All the tacos have home made fillings and corn tortillas, but I found they were either a hit or very mediocre.

On the table:

MEAT TACOS
Clockwise from top: De Lengua (beef tongue), De Cachette (beef cheek), Carnitas (pork confit), Al Pastor (marinated pork)

I tried the meats without sauce first – mistake. They all require guacamole and chipotle salsa from their self-serve home made condiments. The guy working there actually did it for me and said “you have to eat tacos this way”. None of the meats are flavourful enough on their own to do without the additional sauces (except for maybe the beef tongue).

**De Lengua (beef tongue) – 5/6

  • Braised Pemberton Meadows beef tongue $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • Served with cilantro, chopped onion & lime.
  • I am not a “tongue” kind of girl… that sounds bad, but really. The thought of it grosses me out. I know, I’ve eaten bugs, and live octopus and raw cow’s intestine, and tongue grosses me out?! Mind you, I did that all when I was traveling. Nontheless when the guy working there said “beef tongue is the best taco”, I had to do it.
  • I am used to seeing beef tongue served in slices, and thank god this one was served in chunks (not resembling a tongue). Beef tongue is a very traditional Mexican taco filling and thank god I tried it! It was awesome! Hands down the best taco.
  • Beef tongue taste like cubes of very tender and lean slow braised beef brisket. It was very juicy, soft and the tenderest of all the meats and it shredded wonderfully as you chew it.
  • The taco had a very naturally savoury and sweet beef brisket flavour and it was matched with a creamy poblano pepper & green tomato sauce that was a bit smokey and tangy. It was the only taco with sauce. The beef tongue is a bit oily though because of the preparation they used.

**De Cachette (beef cheeks) – 4.5/6

  • Braised Chilliwack beef cheeks $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • This was very good, but again there was a lot of clear fat drippings served with it. It was tender and more flavour than the pork confit, which was unexpected for me.
  • It’s shredded, lean, and closer to the taste and texture of beef brisket compared to the the beef tongue which is softer than brisket. I actually wouldn’t have guessed this was beef cheek because I expected it to be more tender although it was still good. It’s not marinated though and it really needs some of their self serve condiments such as guacamole and chipotle salsa.
  • A great pork cheek dish is from Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca.

Al Pastor (marinated pork) – 2.5/6

  • Chilliwack pork marinated in chile, Achiote & pineapple $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • The pork was a bit dry, crumbly and tough. The marinade was very light and it was very slightly spicy, I like these much better in the States.
  • They had some diced fresh sweet pineapple on top, but they should have made it into a salsa because it wasn’t as incorporated in the taco as I would have liked.
  • It was sweet and tart, and I love the idea (which I’ve had in Mexican places in Texas before), but the pork was very underwhelming.

Carnitas (pork confit) – 3/6

  • Pork confit with pickled red onion $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • This is usually my favourite kind of taco because I love pork confit or pulled pork, but this was not as flavourful as the beef tacos.
  • Alone, the meat actually tastes greasy. It was probably the greasiest of all of them and it was served with lots of clear fat drippings. The other ones had them too, but the fat drippings just really absorb into the flavour of the pork confit, not in a good way either, just in an oily residue on my lips and in my mouth kind of way.
  • It was good because of the sweet pickled red onions on top and that gave the pork a nice flavour, but the meat itself wasn’t seasoned or spiced. Places in the States like Taqueria El Rinconsito, a bang for your buck Mexican fast food chain does it better. Even the little taco stand at the Bellis Fair food court does it better and both places for less too.

Camerones a la Diabla (shrimp) – 1.5/6

  • Shrimps in home made spicy salsa $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • This was the special of the week and the most disappointing. The shrimps were bay shrimps and they were very overcooked and tough.
  • The spicy salsa wasn’t spicy at all, and actually quite sweet and almost like ketchup.

Photo from the 2010 Mexican festival in Vancouver (clockwise from top) – lamb, pollo con mole (chicken), lamb again, rajas con crema (poblano peppers & corn)

**Pollo Con Mole (chicken) – 4.5/6 (Top right taco)

  • Maple Hills chicken with chocolate Mole sauce $2.50 each / 4 meat tacos for $9.50
  • I enjoyed the pollo con mole taco! I tried it at the Mexican festival and it was great!
  • It was bold, rich, sweet, savoury, smoky, nutty, and slightly bitter in flavour and creamy in texture.
  • The sauce was so well incorporated with the chicken that every bite was delicious!
  • The chicken was shredded, juicy, and tender and it was the texture of how the carnitas (pork confit) should have been.

VEGETARIAN TACOS
Clockwise from top: Rajas con Crema (poblano peppers and corn), Frijoles Charros (re-fried beans), Tina de Hongos (mushrooms), Picadilla (tofu)
Tinga de Hongos (Mushrooms) – 2.5/6

  • Sauteed fresh mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce $2 each / 4 veggie tacos for $7
  • This was the sauciest vegetarian taco, but not necessarily the most or best flavoured.
  • The mushrooms were juicy with some sweet onions, but the sauce just tastes like a smoky tangy tomato sauce and it was very mildly spiced.

**Rajas Con Crema (Poblano Peppers & Corn) – 5/6

  • Roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn, sour cream & Mexican cheese $2 each / 4 veggie tacos for $7
  • I tried this one at the Mexican festival and it was better at the festival because they mixed all the ingredients together (see photo above) and it was just super juicy and well flavoured. It’s the most distinct and memorable taco of all the vegetarian ones.
  • They’re very generous with the corn and it’s very fresh, sweet, and crunchy and I wonder what they’ll do when it goes out of sesason… ?
  • The poblano peppers are smoky and somewhat sweet with bitter notes, but not spicy. The sour cream was nice and refreshing adding a tanginess to the overall taco and I just love the combination of flavours. It hit all the taste buds in one go and I loved the creamy soft peppers with crunchy corn texture.

De Picadillo (Tofu) – 3/6

  • Sauteed ground tofu in Chin Chin’s secret recipe $2 each / 4 veggie tacos for $7
  • This was unexpected and it tastes like a ground pork spaghetti ragu sauce. It’s thick and sweet in flavour and the firm brown tofu is minced up that it resembles minced pork, but the tastes of tofu.
  • There’s also some bell peppers, green beans, black beans and tomato in mixture and it’s very hearty almost like a chili. I loved the additional of nuts to this, but it wasn’t obvious in texture, just a bit in flavour. It’s a crumbly and bitty filling and definitely needs some additional condiments.

Frijoles Charros Con Queso (Refried beans) – 2/6

  • Refried cowboy beans with Mexican cheese $2 each / 4 veggie tacos for $7
  • It was home made refried beans, but it was very dry, thick and too pasty in texture. It was hard to swallow (sounds bad)… and it needed something to thin it out. The Mexican cheese, Queso Fresco, is almost like Feta Cheese and it added a nice saltiness which is needed, otherwise it was just a smokey mashed up bean flavour. This one also needed lots of additional sauces.

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15 Comments

  • Jonathan says:

    wow you have been busy! personally i love the al pastor! i am a bit forgiving, because compared to the rest of the tacos in vancouver, these are the bees knees ๐Ÿ™‚ competition in texas doesn’t really count! one thing i have noticed is that the food is a bit variable, it has its good days and less good days. oh and you didn’t mention the name – do you know what pinche taco shop means? ๐Ÿ™‚ very playful, makes me smile every time.

  • Mijune says:

    lol exactly!! This is the sh*t compared to all the other taco places… like Taco Bell =p… lol but I actually like the soft taco supreme there. hmmm I know what you mean b/c the day at the Mexican fest was better than the actual location I found.

    Have no idea what “pinche taco shop” means, but not I’m curious!! What does it mean?

    Oh sorry Jonathan! I just realized I forgot to put your website link in the post! I’ll do it now.

  • Gary says:

    I tried La Taqueria with my wife Taya a while back, and we found it to be okay, but not mind blowing like everyone is making it out to be. Just way too hyped up in my opinion.

    Maybe it’s because we’re not big fans of authentic Mexican tacos. They are good, but don’t make your taste buds explode. Is it because Tex Mex has just so much more “flavour”? and like you said Mijune, Taco Bell and Chipotle (drool) reign supreme. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding the ‘tongue’ comment, I’m just waiting for Sherman to chime in with his two cents. LOL

  • Mijune says:

    Gary – no I’m with you! It was good, but not OMFG AMAZING. And aww man I forgot about Chipotle… why did you have to go and bring that up?! =p DROOL!!

    yeah me too! Sherman’s such a perv lol j/k… sort of…. although someone on Twitter made a comment about a tongue in a taco… he totally up’d Sherman on that!

  • Victoria says:

    Like Jonathan says, this place must have it’s good days and less good days, as I didn’t have a very good experience here – from incorrect food orders to just not being all that great to me.

    It sounds like I may have to try it again one of these days though.

  • Mijune says:

    Victoria – I totally agree with you … it’s good, but I wasn’t blown away. Hmmm they only have tacos… one thing on the menu… so they really shouldn’t be that inconsistent if you think about it.

  • Kevin says:

    Pinche Taco Shop = F*ing Taco Shop.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Kevin says:

    Or for a more toned down version, kitchen boy. But trust me, the former is what they’re going for.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pinche

  • Mijune says:

    Kevin – lol really?! I had no idea!! Thanks for the low down! haha

  • KimHo says:

    That definition of pinche is only applicable to Mexico (which is suitable given the restaurant type); otherwise, we will look at you funny.

  • Shakira says:

    I don’t understand why such a stupid name. Is if funny for someone to hear us say “gimme 2 F**ing tacos?”

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