Don Guacamole’s

Restaurant: Don Guacamole’s
Cuisine: Mexican/Tacos
Last visited: October 12, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1333 Robson Street
Price Range: $10-20

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

Food: 3.5 – 4 (based on few items I tried)
Service: 2 (friendly, but very inattentive)
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Mexican owned/operated
  • Specializes in ‘authentic’ Mexican tacos
  • Home made fillings & salsas
  • Extensive menu
  • No seafood options
  • Casual/good for the game
  • Affordable
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Beer/Wine/Cocktails
  • Patio seating
  • Dine in/Take-out
  • Mexican brunch/breakfast items available
  • Mon-Sun 11am-10pm (Sometimes until 11pm, but depends)

**Recommendations: Lengua (Beef Tongue) tacos, Lamb tacos, Carnitas tacos, Alambre

My one taco visit to La Taqueria turned into a taco binge. I ended up trying TacoFino Cantina, Doña Cata and now Don Guacamole’s in search of a great taco. I can’t really even compare them all because they’re slightly different in styles, especially TacoFino. TacoFino serves Baja (Californian) style tacos that are more like Chronic Tacos, but way better. Anyways, I promise this is my last taco post for the time being, because I don’t know about you, but I need a bit of a taco break.

It’s already been 3 years since Don Guacamole’s opened and I have a feeling the passion and care in the food has dropped a bit. This is just from comparing my photos with some others that were taken in its earlier days, but the difference is visually noticeable. Anyways I can only judge by what I had, and things can change over time, but usually I hope for the better.

I came specifically for the tacos since I was on a taco hunt. I do think it’s somewhat fair to compare them to La Taqueria and Doña Cata since all three places claim to serve authentic Mexican tacos. I won’t go as far as to say whose was more authentic, but I do think there are levels of authenticity. In the end it comes down to which I liked the best in terms of flavour, but authenticity is something I respect.

I’ll just restate what I said in my previous post about Mexican food in Vancouver. It struggles.

Now moving on, I did find these tacos good for Vancouver standards. The meats are actually the most seasoned and flavourful compared to La Taqueria and Doña Cata, but the quality of the meats weren’t as good as the other two. It was just a bit fattier and chewier at times, but it wasn’t the greasiest. The other two offer a lot more home made salsas to dress up your taco, but their tacos are reliant on the salsas and they can’t hold their own without them. I liked the large variety of home made salsas at Doña Cata, but I liked La Taqueria better than Doña Cata. If La Taqueria and Don Guacamole’s hooked up, and took the prices from Doña Cata, there could be something worth bragging about!

Just for quick and easy reference, here’s a Taco chart.

Comparing Mexican Tacos in Vancouver

Doña Cata, La Taqueria & Don Guacamole’s

Doña Cata

La Taqueria

Don Guacamole’s

Flavour of meats in tacos
Tacos need salsa, meats a bit dry and under seasoned, a bit greasy Seasoned meats, good quality meats, mild flavour, and tacos require salsas Most seasoned and flavourful meats, not greatest quality meats, doesn’t require salsa
Type of filling for tacos
Meats, no seafood, no “exotic meats” like beef tongue, couple vegetarian options Meat/seafood options, sustainable meats, most vegetarian options Meats, no seafood, couple vegetarian options
Salsas 10 homemade salsas 4 homemade salsas 3 homemade salsas
Price $2/taco Meat tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie tacos $2 each / 4 for $7

$2.75/taco / 4 for $10

Note: There are certainly more taco options than this in Metro Vancouver, I just took the three most popular restaurants for authentic Mexican tacos. These places aren’t necessarily the best, but it gives an idea, and my taco hunt is not finished.

On the table:

Complimentary Chips & Salsa

  • Doña Cata serves complimentary chips and salsa too.
  • Salsa Roja – spicy red chile tomato salsa. This was the spiciest, but it wasn’t hot. It was medium spicy.
  • Pico de Gallo – or salsa fresca, fresh salsa with chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and cilantro. It had some citrus lime juice and spicy heat.
  • Green Tomato Salsa – or salsa verde, this was actually a bit spicy and I’m used to it being mild.
  • All of the salsas actually carried a decent amount of spice which surprised me. They weren’t hot, but a mild-medium to medium spicy.
  • They don’t have as many home made salsas as La Taqueria or Doña Cata. The salsas here weren’t anything special, but the meats are more flavoured than the other two, so it didn’t require them.

**Birria (Lamb) Tacos3.5/6

  • Fresh lamb, slow cooked with unique Mexican ingredients. Order of 4 $10 or $2.75/taco
  • The lamb came in chunks and it wasn’t really shredded. The tendons didn’t break down all the way so at times it was a bit chewy.
  • The lamb quality seemed better at Doña Cata, but the flavour was much better here. It was a bit fattier and definitely more moist, but not juicy.
  • It had a slight game flavour, but it was quite mild and since it was well seasoned and a bit spicy, it wasn’t as obvious as the one from Doña Cata.
  • The taco was good with or without the salsas.

**Lengua (Beef Tongue) Tacos4/6

  • Beef tongue, seasoned in fine herbs. Order of 4 $10 or $2.75/taco
  • This didn’t look like beef tongue at all.
  • The tongue came shredded and if I didn’t know, I would have thought I was eating beef brisket. I do prefer chunks of diced tongue like how they serve it at La Taqueria, but this one was more seasoned.
  • It was very tender, naturally a bit oily, and quite moist. It seemed more fatty than the one at La Taqueria, but it was more flavourful with perhaps some tomato paste.
  • If you’ve never had tongue, don’t be scared. It tastes just like beef, but more tender and it’s not gamey or does it have an aftertaste of anything funky.

**Carnitas Tacos4.5/6

  • Slow braised pork, seasoned with the Chef’s ingredients. Order of 4 $10 or $2.75/taco
  • A Carnitas taco is my favourite so I have higher expectations for it, but this one was actually very good!
  • This was easily my favourite taco.
  • I liked it the best out of La Taqueria and Doña Cata carnitas tacos, but I liked the pickled onions La Taqueria served it with.
  • The carnitas here had the best flavour, and it was the most savoury and juiciest out of the ones I tried.
  • The fried pork was obviously oily (being fried in oil), but I could taste the pork juices and not just bland oil.
  • It seemed the most seasoned out of all the meats and I just wanted more of it.
  • The taco was delicious with or without the salsa.
  • If you like carnitas I would also recommend the Tostada Carnitas from El Barrio – see here.
  • Just for reference, outside of Mexico, the most authentic carnitas taco I’ve had is from Riviera Maya Mexican Cuisine.

Carne Asada (Grilled Prime Beef) Tacos1.5/6

  • Grilled prime beef, seasoned with pepper and fine herbs. Order of 4 $10 or $2.75/taco
  • This was my least favourite and the steak was overcooked and very dry. It was almost to the point of crumbled jerky.
  • This had very thin slices of beef and it was the kind I would see at cheap eats Korean BBQ or cheap eats hot pot.
  • It was a bit fatty and chewy and the fat wasn’t well marbled so I wasn’t too pleased with this taco.
  • I would much rather have the Beef Fajita tacos from La Taqueria.

**Alambre4/6

  • Marinated steak (or your choice of meat) with green peppers, onions and bacon. Served with 5 tortillas. Chicken $12, Arrachera $15, Grilled steak $14.50Vegetarian $11.50. add cheese +$2.75. I special ordered mine with al pastor (slow roasted marinated pork) for $15
  • I asked my Mexican server what his favourite was, not the most popular, but what he would eat. He said his option wasn’t really on the menu. It was the alambre with al pastor instead of grilled steak. I requested his dish and it wasn’t problem.
  • I never requested the extra cheese, but when the bill came it was added for an extra $2.75, not a big deal, but I didn’t request it.
  • Alambre is supposed to refer to a shishkabob of grilled steak, so this version wasn’t traditional.
  • Anyways this was a very hearty and greasy dish and it almost reminded me of Chinese stir-fry meets fajitas, but with melted oozy gooey cheese on top. It might sound odd, but it worked because the sauce was obviously Mexican, and not Chinese.
  • The portion is generous and it would be enough for 2 for lunch.
  • It was really oily, greasy, and saucy, but it tasted pretty good!
  • The layers of melted cheese throughout just made it that much more rich.
  • There were more fried onions and sweet green bell peppers than pork, but the pork that was there was quite tender although very hard to find since everything was so diced up.
  • The al pastor (slow roasted marinated pork) just tasted like baked pork chop, but I couldn’t taste its marinade under all that sauce.
  • Al pastor is supposed to be cooked in chilies and pineapples, but I lost that aspect in this context and there were no pineapples or spice.
  • I would have preferred larger chunks of al pastor, but since they were using the al pastor for the tacos, it was all minced up. It ended up being almost smaller than the vegetables.
  • On another note I’m not sure if the tiny pieces of really fatty pork was the bacon… ? Regardless, the bacon came unnoticed especially having it with al pastor, and I had no idea it was in there.
  • The sauce was quite smoky and earthy and reminiscent of adobo sauce. It had some garlic and paprika, but it wasn’t spicy or bitter. I liked the flavour and it had a slight acidity which I thought was from a tomato base, but it’s likely from a touch of vinegar.

  • It was served with 5 individually grilled tortilla shells and I could have eaten it with or without the tortillas. I could have eaten this with nachos or even rice.
  • Meat + gravy + cheese… you can’t really go wrong with that combination… did someone say poutine?
  • If they let me choose my own meat, next time I’d possibly order this with carnitas, but it is traditionally supposed to be a steak kebob.

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12 Comments

  • Linda says:

    haha when i first saw your picture, i thought the tortillas had a green tinge to them! haha i know it must be the lighting but wow lol i’ve heard good and bad things about don guacamoles, mostly that they’re not worth the money… i’d have to agree on some level but maybe the carnitas taco might change my mind 🙂

    mmmm i love carnitas! i think those are my fave as well.. these ones here look very moist and flavorful and i’m glad they were able to deliver! wow, those carne asada tacos look sooooo dry! they look like beef jerky all right!

    the alambre looks yummy but extra booooo for the extra charge for cheese, you could’ve gotten another taco!!!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – Personally I hate paying a a lot for Mexican food.. however being on Robson in downtown I can see why it is pricier than say La Taqueria and Dona Cata… it is a bar/restaurants than a take out shop though. i didn’t find it expensive, but it’s not cheap. I just found it quite normal. I think it really depends on what you order, and I think they likely started out better so depends when your friends went. Let me know what you think of the carnitas though!

  • Dilara says:

    I tried Don Guacamole’s for the first time about a month ago and wasn’t impressed at all. We went for a late lunch on a Sunday and they weren’t very busy at all but the service was terrible. I tried the enchiladas and hubby had the burrito – neither tasted that good. Our drinks came way after our food arrived and getting our bill was a really long wait too. I don’t think we’ll ever go back.

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – yikes! Yeah I only went specifically for tacos so I can’t speak for the rest of the food there. That blows though… 🙁 The service was definitely not there for me too. The carnitas I did enjoy though and the taco meats do have flavour.

  • Bow says:

    When Don Guacamole’s opened a couple of years ago, it was a welcome addition amongst Hon’s, ramen houses, and coffee houses. It soon morphed to a saloon(food is secondary, just come and drink and meet the opposite sex). It became a pickup joint. Mijune, don’t know if you noticed that Robson St. hasn’t got very many bars…where can one go for a drink ? Places of Don Guacamole’s fit the bill, trendy, busy, loud and full of drinks and a menu which isn’t Japanese.A place which meets a need, a saloon rather than a sports bar ; food became secondary, ‘cos the service is lacking.

  • KimHo says:

    I went there over two years ago and I ordered the Alambre. Well, let’s just say some things haven’t changed during all these years… Now, when I went, I went with a Mexican friend. His thoughts were “it is good enough”, i.e., good enough for that occasional desperate crave (he visits Mexico frequently) but not a place that he might necessarily go by himself.

    Bow, you might be into something. From Robson and Denman all the way to Burrard, the only place I remember that can be considered a sports bar of sorts was Fogg N’ Sudds but it closed for a Greek restaurant. That aside, there is Coco Rico Cafe, which is a really small sports bar of sorts. If you keep on going east, you will have to go all the way to Granville, where Lennox Pub is located. Now, going the other way, Dover Arms (on Denman), offers British pub fare. So, overall, indeed, it seems that area has been overrun by Asian-style watering holes…

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – yes, it is one of the few non-Asian places.. although there is O’Doul’s.. but that’s nicer… and then the hotel restaurants down there. And a couple others that I don’t even know the names of! Didn’t know it was a “pick up bar”… but I can see it. I wish I tried it when it first opened.

    @Kim – ahh Coco Rico Cafe! That’s the one I was thinking of! by Yogen Fruz! There’s Shananigan’s too! I wonder what your friend would think if he went back now…

  • Linda says:

    just wanted to drop a note to say good luck on tonight’s premiere of recipes to riches!

    http://www.foodnetwork.ca/ontv/shows/recipe-to-riches/competitors.html?titleid=267963&id=38379

    yay!!!! 🙂

  • Dan Wong says:

    Nice review! I went here for lunch about a year ago, had the burrito (which was the size of my head), and after struggling to finish (I always try to finish), found the burrito to be pretty average. After that experience, I avoided coming here again but I’ve always wondered about the tacos. Thanks for the info!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – you are seriously the cutest thing ever!!! Thank you so much!!!!!!! oxoxoxooxoxo

    @Dan Wong – lol what a story! Yes… never do that… that’s why AYCE sushi has scarred me!!! Ruins everything trying to finish when you’re so stuffed. Better to complain about being full than hungry though huh? No problem Dan, thanks for reading my post!! 🙂

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