Chronic Tacos

Restaurant: Chronic Tacos
Cuisine: Tacos/Tex-Mex/Mexican
Last visited: October 30, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Mount Pleasant/Main Street)
Address: 382 West Broadway
Price Range: $10 or less

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

Food: 2.5-3
Service: 5 (note below)
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Since 2001
  • Franchise
  • Started in California
  • Famous for tacos
  • Subway of tacos
  • Quick, casual, fast food
  • Fresh, made upon order
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Guacamole/Salsas made daily
  • Homemade tortilla/bread (No preservatives)
  • Big portions
  • Cheap eats/Budget friendly
  • Friendly staff
  • Beer available
  • Catering available
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

**Recommendations: Most people are obsessed with their beer battered fish taco, but I found it very mediocre. I liked the Shrimp, Carne Asada (Grilled Steak), and Al Pastor (Pork with Pineapple). MUST REQUEST guacamole (free) on all tacos, it’s so much better with it.

It was the day before Halloween hence the staff member dressed in a taco… however I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a normal day…

This is the first franchise for Chronic Tacos in Vancouver, BC. My visit here was much anticipated by me… and by @bbvegas who recommended it to me. It’s a Californian institution and apparently a local favourite there. I was super stoked to try it out since I heard so many great things about it and Vancouver has a serious lack of good Mexican food. I must say that I was caught off guard by the outside and actually the inside as well. I wasn’t expecting such a clean looking sports bar with flat screens all around. It’s a fast food joint, but the atmosphere is inviting.

What’s the must try at Chronic TACOS? The fatty tacos of course. However tons of people were ordering the burritos, which looked short and stubby but very generously filled (insert dirty joke). The guy suggested one taco as a snack and two tacos as a meal. Along with my friend we decided to order all of them. What better way is there to sample and compare right?

We asked for EVERYTHING on the tacos, which are well stuffed, but they left out the guacamole. Make sure you request it because it’s free and it would have done wonders for some of the tacos, actually all of the tacos, but especially the shrimp, fish, and chicken.

Chronic Tacos is the Subway of tacos. The ingredients are fresh and it’s made upon order and the ‘goodness’ of the tacos are as good as the sandwiches at Subway. I would go to Chronic Tacos out of convenience, but it’s not the best in town… again, just like Subway. It was more Californian Mexican than authentic Mexican to me and they almost taste healthy. All the salsas and guacamole is made fresh daily and the meats are all slow cooked and marinated overnight.

I can’t say I was wow’d by the food here, but I can see why people like it. It’s fast, affordable, filling, good for fast food and provides a “chill” atmosphere and friendly service. As a “foodie” I found it quite mediocre and I prefer La Taqueria, the more traditional Mexican style tacos. If I’m comparing it to a chain in the States I would rather have Taqueria El Rinconsito in Seattle.

Note: The staff is definitely a selling point here. They remind me of the cast of Hangover meets Superbad and it carries that “Bob Marley” vibe. They explained the menu, greeted every customer from table to table and apparently that’s what all the locations are like. They eventually guessed I was a food blogger (the picture taking gives it away sometimes), but I’m rating the service based on my experience before the “discovery”.

On the table:

Fish – Mahi Mahi – 2/6

  • Mahi Mahi Tecate Beer Battered or Grilled $3.29
  • The beer battered fish is the most recommended and most popular fatty taco.
  • I had to eat it first since it’s deep fried, and it was actually my least favourite taco.
  • It wasn’t gross, but I couldn’t taste the fish at all. Mahi Mahi is like a more delicate softer Halibut and it doesn’t have a fishy taste.
  • It was like fish and chips with a light and crispy batter but it blended in with the flour tortilla and I couldn’t taste it.
  • It had Baja sauce on it which is a spicy and tangy chipotle like mayo (but it’s not chipotle). It had cabbage on it, but I would have preferred a dressed cole slaw because it tasted plain and almost healthy.
  • I actually like the Halibut Soft Tacos at Cactus Club better and they’re similar, but 3x’s the price. I have yet to try Vancouver’s beloved fish tacos from Go Fish Ocean Emporium. Not comparable, but I really do like the ahi tuna tacos from Joey’s.

**Shrimp3.5/6

  • Tecate Beer Battered or Grilled $3.29
  • I left it up to the staff to decide if it was better grilled or battered. Turns out it’s better “grilled” which was actually sauteed.
  • I ate this right after the fish taco and it had way more flavour! It was significantly better than the fish except for the fact that the shrimps were overcooked and a bit tough.
  • They sautee the shrimps in some sort of tomato paste and it’s savoury, sweet and smoky.

Pollo Asada (Chicken) – 2.5/6

  • Marinated grilled chicken $3.29
  • This was definitely unexpected for a chicken taco. It didn’t taste Mexican at all and it actually tasted like egg salad to me. I could have sworn it was sauteed in eggs, but  it wasn’t.
  • It had no Mexican flavorings, but apparently it’s marinated in citrus, however I tasted no tang.
  • It was definitely crumbly and like ground chicken, but at least it wasn’t dry. I totally could have used the guacamole in this case.

**Carne Asada (Steak) – 3.5/6

  • Marinated Grilled Steak $3.29

  • All the tacos do come with a nice giant scoop of meat. I wish the steak was actually slices rather then bitty pieces though.
  • The steak was almost like ground beef and it tastes like broken up meatballs rather than carne asada. It was juicy and very flavourful, but it just didn’t taste Mexican. The meat was tender and well marinated and eaten with the melted cheddar cheese it almost tastes Italian.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork)3/6

  • Slow cooked pork $3.29
  • I loved pulled pork and I love carnitas, so I thought this would be my favourite.

  • The pork was incredibly tender and juicy and it had an intense smoky flavour, which is unexpected for carnitas. The taste is so distinct that I thought they had a fire pit in the back. They actually marinate it for 12 hours and slow cook it for another 4 hours. It’s marinated in some wine and sugar and other seasonings so it has a very slight sweetness, but it’s predominantly smoky for sure.
  • I was a big fan of the texture which was almost like duck confit and it was cooked in its own fat, however I wasn’t keen on the flavour since it didn’t resemble real Mexican carnitas.

**Al Pastor – 3.5/6

  • Spicy marinated pork with pineapple and onions $3.29
  • This was the most Mexican tasting taco. It had the most flavour by far and it was very decently spicy. It was savoury, smoky and the pork was nice and tender and well marinated.
  • I was missing the pineapple taste and sweetness and I expected to see actual pieces of pineapple. See the ones here at La Taqueria.
  • If you started off with this taco you might have been disappointed by the lack of flavour in everything else. I would have been at least.

They have 3 bottles of hot sauce at each table. The Tapatio hot sauce is a good sign of authenticity since it’s what they use all over Mexico (**as I was told, but please see comments). My favourite was the Gringo Bandito which is a sweeter thicker hot sauce that was delicious even eaten plain.

**Guacamole & Tortilla Chips – 4.5/6

  • It comes free with the tacos, but we asked for a sample since none of our tacos had any. REQUEST IT. They ended up letting us try it with a small bag or corn tortilla chips.
  • The chips are warm, crispy and fresh.
  • The guacamole is delicious and you HAVE to get it on the tacos. It would have made such a positive difference.
  • It’s made daily and it’s a very cooling and refreshing guacamole with a tang of lime, tomatoes and cilantro. It’s a very creamy puree and it has the perfect amount of salt that makes the flavours seem incredibly vibrant. It really was very good guacamole.

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13 Comments

  • Inspector Stanley says:

    I noticed that the server was wearing gloves — that is a good sign. Your rating of the place is somewhat satifactory… No 5 or above ratings….hmmm… i guess Taco Time is still a safer bet until they get more comfortable… They can’t survive on their guacomole alone! Inspection was fine for now……

    Here we are:

    No pests observed at time of inspection.

    Lack of/Inadequate Food Safety Plan
    Ensure temperature of all coolers, freezers, and hot holding equipment is monitored and logged daily. This ensures that all units are maintaining safe food temperatures to avoid rapid growth of pathogenic microorganisms (Cooler: <4C, Freezer: 60C). A logged copy should be kept for at least 6 months. This is a record for the history of each unit and also could be used if evidence for a food borne illness investigation is required.

    Daily monitoring/logging of temperature (coolers, freezers, hot holding) is not occuring.

    Improper Sanitary Facilities
    There were no paper towels available at the bar handsink.

    Ensure all handsinks are equipped with liquid soap and paper towels in a dispenser at all times.

  • Mijune says:

    @Inspector Stanley – You crack me up! LOL! I love how on top of it you are when it comes to sanitation! Have you tried La Taqueria? If you’re looking for authenticity I’d say that place is more “authentic” … but this place is almost “healthier” and very Californian.

  • Mom says:

    This place has lots of low-fat and healthy food options, cool atmosphere, cheap, and super friendly staff. I take my 3 rowdy young kids there and when they spill, etc, the staff couldn’t be cooler about it. It’s my favorite place to go out with the kids.

  • Mijune says:

    @Mom – I agree with you there. The tacos do taste “healthy”, but I wouldn’t all them healthy. Just ask the staff… I did, and they said healthIER, not healthy lol . Thanks for your perspective and it’s nice to know it’s kid friendly.

  • Now that I’ve lived in Mexico for a year I see the secret in why the food is so incredible, and why it is hard to mimic up North.
    Obviously the freshness of the food is better in Mexico, everything is grown fresh and outdoors.
    But besides that, the 2 secrets of a good taco is hand-made corn tortillas, and simplicity. Loading 4 or 5 ingredients on a taco simply takes the delight of the simple and delicious ingredients. Meat, salsita’s, ( usually 3 or 4 different types to choose from ) and lime. Add cheese and you’ve got a quesadilla, and then, the cheese is nothing but Oaxaca…
    I think Salsa Agave and La Taqueria are the closet thing to proper Mexican in Vancouver! 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Chelsea Joelle – ahh I agree with you. I think it’s the same with a lot of cuisines… we just don’t have the right climate and ingredients to make “authentic” “ethnic” food in Vancouver. I agree with everything you’ve said, but there’s more authentic than even the ones you listed in my opinion. Salsa Agave I thought was alright and La Taqueria I have a post for as well.. it’s good, but still lacking a bit for me. Thanks for commenting though! I appreciate it!

  • 2Φ3Σ27Φ (\)λ√λ22Φ.·. says:

    i just want to make a correction to your post, i have had a hell of a time finding Tapatío Hot Sauce in México. I live in Guadalajara where the Tapatíos are from and no one here has ever herd of Tapatío Hot Sauce.

    Tapatío Hot Sauce is a product that is made and shipped all over the US from Vernon California, just goes to show how people that live in california think they know what México realy is (but they don’t).

    Just like 5 de Mayo is really not even that big a deal in México but in the US there is the misconseption that thats the mexican indipendence day (but it’s not).

  • Mijune says:

    @2Φ3Σ27Φ (\)λ√λ22Φ.·. – fair enough. That’s what I was told and my knowledge of Mexican food is limited living in Vancouver where the population is small. Sorry to have offended you in any case. I will edit the post appropriately 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Simone says:

    Okay used my Groupon today and YUCK!
    I read so many good reviews but REALLY?
    Three of us went and not one of us liked it
    The food that was suppose to be hot was cold and the
    cold food was warm??? The staff behind the counter
    was clueless to say the least. Cashier was friendly and
    the bartender was a hoot. Would oh so NOT
    go back. YUCK!

  • Mijune says:

    @Simone – Yikes! Sorry you had such a bad time. Mine wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t love it either. Did you go to the new location on 4th? Since it just opened I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still getting their feet wet. Oh well.. at least it was a Groupon and you can cut your losses! 🙂

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Simone & Mijune: the GOOD NEWS for Broadway/Cambie area as far as (authentic) Mexican tacos go, is La Taqueria is opening a 2nd (and huge in comparison) location just south of the Starbucks, where the Buddha Oriental Express outlet used to be:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791499

    This is in my ‘hood. Counting down the days ……………

  • Mijune says:

    @LotusRapper – yes I’ve heard! It’s exciting news! On the other hand Chronic Tacos are meant to be “Californian style tacos” rather than authentic Mexican.. so it’s hard to ding them entirely unless it’s claiming to be traditional Mexican. Thanks for the tips LotusRapper!

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