La Taqueria (Taco Shop on Cambie)

Restaurant: La Taqueria Taco Shop
Cuisine: Mexican/Tacos/Organic
Last visited: September 28, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 2549 Cambie Street
Price Range: $10 or less

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

Food: 3.5 (4 if you use the salsas)
Service: 4
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Since 2011
  • Mexican owned
  • Specializes in ‘authentic’ Mexican tacos
  • Very popular to locals
  • Home made fillings & salsas
  • 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
  • Mon-Sat 11am-7pm (Sometimes until 10pm, but depends)

**Recommendations: De Lengua (Beef Tongue), De Cachette (beef cheeks), Rajas Con Crema (poblano peppers and creamed corn) and Horchata. All the tacos are much better with their home made salsas. Use them!

This is such a trippy photo! It was like seeing the La Taqueria logo come to life. The beaming rays of light was reminiscent of the painted Mary mural found on the outside of both La Taqueria locations – see the other Mary mural here. I was already planning on coming here, but had I been just walking by, I still wouldn’t be able to ignore the holy like sign telling me to go inside.This is the new location for La Taqueria that just opened this year. The original location is in Gastown, downtown Vancouver, and that one is much smaller. Peak hours are busy at both locations, but the line up moves quickly so I’d still consider it a quick and casual lunch.

When it comes to authentic or traditional Mexican food, Vancouver has it rough. It doesn’t have the Latin or Spanish population and there just aren’t as many options for it, let alone good options for it. I would say La Taqueria is good in the context of Vancouver, but outside of Vancouver, it would face some serious competition. I’m not even referring to Mexico, but just the States in general (even as close as Seattle) the Mexican food scene is more impressive. I think the taco scene in Vancouver is developing and improving, but La Taqueria is still the most popular and well known choice for relatively authentic tacos, although not necessarily the best or even most authentic.

The meats are prepared and cooked in house, but I found them somewhat plain and bland compared to the real deal. Everything is fresh, but it just seemed a bit mass produced, although I respect the fact that the meats are free-range and sustainable. I found the corn tortillas a bit dry and dense, but they did serve them with two, which is traditional (just a heads up for those who don’t know).

I quickly learned that all their tacos require salsas (sauces) and I kind of wish that wasn’t the case. Yes in Mexico they use salsas on their tacos too, but I don’t think the taco should be reliant on the salsa to give it flavour. It was recommended to use them, but I still wanted well marinated meats and built in flavour. On the other hand, they are very well made salsas, and they took the tacos from being okay to very good, and I’d buy the chipotle salsa if they sold it.

It’s interesting because I just re-read my La Taqueria Gastown post from almost exactly a year ago, and my opinions are basically the same and nothing has changed. I guess that means they’re consistent, but if there’s room for improvement, then I don’t see why it should remain consistent. I guess it has its loyal clientele, but personally I could use an upgrade for some of their recipes.

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:

**Horchata4/6

  • $3
  • It’s a traditional Mexican drink made from a combination of boiled rice, almonds, sesame seeds, cinnamon and sugar. I love it.
  • It’s milky, but not creamy and it is dairy free. It almost tasted like a more aromatic almond milk.
  • This wasn’t as rich, thick or complex in flavours as some horchatas I’ve had, and it wasn’t as sweet either which I like.
  • It does have a cinnamon accent, but it’s faint and not that obvious. If you’re sensitive to cinnamon you might not like this, but I found it quite mild.
  • This was a bit more watered down, but the flavour wasn’t watery, and it made it easier to drink so I enjoyed it even more.
  • Sometimes there’s cocoa in it too – see the Horchata from El Caracol Mexican Cafe.

**De Lengua Taco (Beef Tongue)4/6

  • Braised beef tongue Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • I remembered the beef tongue being my favourite taco from last time, so I had to try it again.
  • Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as I had remembered and I just didn’t find the tongue as tender and soft, but it was still tender.
  • Don’t be freaked out by tongue if you’ve never had it, it doesn’t have any bumpy taste buds and it just tastes like very soft beef. There’s no game flavour or “exotic” aftertaste. It used to gross me out as a kid too, but just don’t think of it as tongue.
  • The tongue itself just needed more of a marinade and it was a bit bland alone.
  • It came with raw onions, cilantro and a mild citrusy salsa verde which had a nice acidity from tomatoes and tang from lime juice.
  • I recommend using their house made salsa despite having a sauce on it already.

**De Cachette Taco (Beef Cheeks)4.5/6

  • Braised beef cheeks Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • I love beef cheeks. If made well it’s extremely tender and almost like braised beef short ribs or beef brisket.
  • This one carried more of a beef flavour than the beef tongue and it was very creamy, fatty (as it usually is), and quite tender.
  • I did find it a bit oily and it could have used more seasonings and spices because it just seemed like it was braised in its own juices and that’s it.
  • This was much better with the chipotle salsa.

Beef Fajita Taco3.5/6

  • Grilled Canadian beef with onions & peppers Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • It was my first time trying this one.
  • The beef was soft and tender and marinated in lime juice, but it wasn’t smoky or juicy.
  • I was kind of hoping for medium rare beef, but it was just cooked all the way.
  • It almost seemed sauteed rather than grilled and I was hoping for grill marks and smoky flavours.
  • The cheese didn’t melt and there were some sweet peppers too, but overall it wasn’t a stand out although enjoyable.
  • Again, I recommend using their salsas for this.

Al Pastor Taco 3/6

  • Pork marinated in achiote chili & pineapple Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • This had the smokiest flavour and it was apparent from the very first bite.
  • It was very smoky and the pork was marinated in some spices and a tomato based sauce, but it was barely spicy.
  • The pork was crumbly, but not as dry as last time so I did like it better.
  • It had some diced fresh sweet pineapple on top, but I wish it was made into a salsa or even grilled for more flavour.
  • It was sweet and tart, and I love the idea (which I’ve had in Mexican places before), but it still lacked a bit of flavour and needed help from salsas.

Carnitas Taco3.5/6

  • Pork confit with picked red onions Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • Carnitas is my favourite kind of taco so I have higher expectations for it.
  • This just wasn’t as flavourful as the beef tacos.
  • The meat is cooked and fried in fat and grease so it tends to be quite greasy. It shouldn’t taste only of grease though and this one kind of did.
  • I was hoping for more of that pork flavour to come through, although it was very tender and moist.
  • It had some pickled and raw onions on top to cut the grease, but the meat itself just couldn’t compare to some carnitas out there.
  • In Vancouver I would strongly suggest trying the Tostada Carnitas from El Barrio – see here. It’s a different menu item completely, buy excellent if you like carnitas.

Pollo Con Mole Taco (Chicken) 3/6

  • Maple Hills chicken with chocolate mole sauce (contains nuts) Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • I used to enjoy this one much more until I tried the Pollo En Mole from El Barrio.
  • This one was just very sweet and chocolatey and I prefer a darker, nuttier chocolate as opposed to this sweeter one. Although it was a bit savoury, smoky, and nutty, it can get better.
  • I do expect it to be sweet, but this one just didn’t seem as well rounded and dynamic in flavour as other mole sauces. It was a bit dessert like and sweeter than most mole sauces.
  • It seemed like melted chocolate sauce instead of ground nuts, seeds and cocoa powder.
  • The chicken was very tender, creamy and moist and the meat was well coated.
  • In terms of flavour, it certainly had flavour, and I wasn’t expecting gourmet, but I was hoping for a more sophistication mole.

Pescado Taco (Fish)2/6

  • Grilled seasonal fish with Pico de Gallo Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • It was my first time trying this one. I almost thought this was ceviche (raw) rather than grilled.
  • It was a firm flaky white fish, but it was a bit dry and bland alone and I wouldn’t have guessed it was grilled. I just found it a bit plain.
  • There was some creamy mayo and a fresh tomato salsa and perhaps some pickled cabbage and fennel on top, but it still lacked flavour.
  • I was hoping the fish would be more seasoned and again this one needed a lot of salsa.

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

  • Roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn, sour cream & Mexican cheese (Veggie) Meat Tacos: $2.50 each / 4 for $9.50 Veggie Tacos $2 each / 4 for $7
  • This was actually my favourite and as good as I remembered it. It had more flavour than some of the meat tacos.
  • It’s filled with lots of sweet corn and it was crunchy. It was a home made creamed corn, but the kernels were whole and popped with each bite.
  • I don’t know if it’s fresh corn though because it’s offered year round and corn goes out of season. Regardless, it’s still good and I actually like canned corn, but I’m not as keen on frozen. In this case, either was good and I didn’t care.
  • The poblano peppers are sweet, smoky, creamy and stringy, but not spicy and slightly bitter, but in a good way.
  • There’s great texture and the addition of refreshing and tangy sour cream just topped it off.
  • This one was great with salsa, but still very enjoyable as is and I like when tacos are good either way.

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20 Comments

  • Stash says:

    Budget friendly/cheap eats?!? I really like this place but in order to get even mildly full I have to buy 12 or 16 of these little tacos, racking me up to the “definitely not budget/cheap eats” category… haha! I suppose that’s the bane of size.

    Good call- you think that the La Taqueria, Pinche Taco Shop (I like the full name after my Mexican friend told me what Pinche means in Mexican slang) is going to bolster the Vancouver taco scene? It would be great to see a little more Mexican flare in our city.

    Great post Mijune.

  • Mijune says:

    @Stash – LOL! I see your point… but I think most people are full after 4 of them… I can eat more than 4 as well.. so I’m not leaving you along on that boat.. and they do add up easily!

    We desperately need better Mexican choices… you’ve had tacos in the States before right? I think La Taqueria could POSSIBLY be the best it gets in Vancouver for “authentic Mexican tacos”… but I have 3 more I still really want to try before I say it.

    Thanks for the comments Stash!

  • KimHo says:

    You just set yourself on a slippery slope with the claim of using two tortillas per taco. In a way, there is no pre-determined rule, as it is dependant on the “filling” and other external factors. I have the odd believe it has to do with the fact most people here are used to two tortillas per taco. When I was in Mexico City, at the place I had lunch, regular type did come with two tortillas; however, some special versions, specially when blue corn tortilla was used, came with one. Restaurant next door? One tortilla per taco…

    One thing that should also be mentioned: Tacos would be akin to sandwiches: each place has its own unique variation. (A closer to home example would be that of Cantonese dim sum). The one people are more familiar with is the one from north of Mexico, crossing the border to California. This is the type sold in La Taqueria and most places in North America (barring, of course, Taco Bell and similar chains). In Mexico City, the tacos were served “plain”, i,e., it was just the tortilla and the meat filling on top. No cilantro, no onions, nothing. They do serve with, on the side, french fries (!), cucumber, radish and a local herb called papalo.

    Stash, you hit a really sore spot regarding Mexican food and that is in a way reflect on what Mijune wrote:

    When it comes to authentic or traditional Mexican food, Vancouver has it rough. It doesn’t have the Latin or Spanish population and there just aren’t as many options for it, let alone good options for it.

    (Sorry, Mijune, love you but will have to throw you under the bus on this one!)

    I have mentioned this before and will say it again: Mexican food is NOT representative of Latin food. It would be equivalent for people to say that French food represents European food; Cantonese representing Chinese food; sushi representing Japanese food and so on. There are a lot of other offerings; however, because Mexican seems to be more popular, either because they are closer to Canada or because their influence in the US creates such a huge influence here. But, if somebody opens something Mexican that is not tortas, tacos or – and I am stretching it here – Tex Mex, I would embrace the concept. Mole, anybody? Tamales? Now, if you are up for non-Mexican, Latin fare, visit El Inka Deli, Mochikas or Rinconcito Salvadoreño. If you do, just make sure not to order “tacos” or “enchiladas”, OK? 🙂

  • Linda says:

    mmmmm totally a shame that we don’t have that many choices for delicious mexican food here in vancouver.. the funny thing is, my bf and i just came back from seattle the other day and went to Taqueria El Rinconsito under your recommendation and the tacos there are sooooooo delicious! 🙂

    i’ve always wondered about la taqueria and actually thought that the gastown location was a bit sketchy.. but looking through this review and actually chatting with them through twitter, i definitely need to check it out! i love that some taco places give you TWO tortillas.. yum, i love that corn flour taste! 🙂

  • LotusRapper says:

    I went there during opening week, and surprisingly there were no food/service glitches despite the long lines and crowds.

    I like all their taco(-ettes), but find them a wee too mildly spiced. I wish they have Dona Cata’s self-serve “10-salsa bar” to dress up the tacos.

    Great review, Mijune 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Kim – thanks for reading every word of my blog. I appreciate it!

    @Linda – lol eeek!!! you did!?!?! I never would have thought anyone would take that rec because it’s such a dive! It was good though huh?!?? awww you guys are soooo cute!! I’m so happy you liked them! So cheap too! 🙂 Let me know wha thou think of the tacos and how you thought they compared to El Rinconsito… and El Rinconsito is just a chain too… so even though we consider it awesome, I’m sure people in Seattle consider it just “good” because they’re used to it.

    @LR – long time no comment!! hello Mr. Rapper! Thanks for the comment! I like their tacos too, but don’t love them… and I’m totally with you on the “mildly spiced”… looks like we’re in the same boat. I’m doing a taco series so check everyday this week! 🙂

  • LotusRapper says:

    Hi Mijune,

    We were down in Bellingham over the TG long weekend. Had some Mex food at the famous Taco Lobo in old downtown:

    http://www.tacolobowa.com/Taco_Lobo_2/Welcome.html

    Great salsas !!! (but bad neons, lol !)

    (sorry I’ve been quiet of late, but was lurking and reading your NYC series)

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – aw no worries!! Glad to hear that my NY posts are still interesting for Vancouver readers!! Taco Logo looks super cheesy… and legit!! I want to go lol

  • LotusRapper says:

    Yeah Mijune, Taco Lobo was teaming with gringos (like us), lol !

  • Karl says:

    Great post, Victoria! I’m going to comment from a “traveller’s” perspective as I’ve yet to sample Vancouver’s taco scene. I don’t want to demean the local fare but it’s hard to appreciate it after inhaling Mexico’s streets. What worries me foremost are the tortillas. They need to be more greasy…not “soaked” but a bit more “fried” would make them the real deal. The meat needs to come off a spit, not coddled all day and placed like a stew on flaccid shells. If we could only get tacos al pastor or carnitas hacked from a fiery, rotating stack of meat on the sidewalk, I’d be one happy gringo!

  • Mijune says:

    @Karl – Hi Karl! It’s actually Mijune, not Victoria 😉 I agree,,, I have to compare them in the context of Vancouver b/c it’s almost a “given” that Mexico has better tacos. I still think our Mexican food scene in Vancouver is rough/overpriced… it’s not bad here, but also could get better or “more authentic”… I feel ya!

  • Karl says:

    Ooops. Sorry bout that. Called Kim Sherman once if that helps! 🙂

    29 days til the Yucatan! Can almost taste the sopa de lima and queso rellenos!

  • Mijune says:

    @Karl – lol it’s okay! I like Victoria ;)… had you called me Kim it might be different =p.. he’s probably reading this now lol. Aww I’m jealous you’re going to Yucatan! bring back some queso rellenos and sopa!

  • Scott Paro says:

    Great review! I stumbled upon these guys a few weeks after moving to Vancouver. I was craving the amazing tacos from my old neighborhood in San Francisco – The Mission. La Taqueria was the closest I have come to my beloved mission tacos since moving from my beloved San Francisco. Thank you for your honest and accurate review! I am officially a fan of yours!

  • Mijune says:

    @Scott Paro – !!!!! You made my day!!! PS: I totally heard of The Mission, but ran out of time when I was last in SF!!!! I need to go back! PS: I have a “San Fran” section if you click “locations” “us” “SF” on the task bar at the the top of my page 🙂

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