From Pop-up Stand to College Street
“Street art. Street food. Street soundtrack”. This is precisely how co-founders Andrew Richmond and Amin Todai, an entrepreneur, describe La Carnita. My translation? Super cool art (adorned the walls in La Carnita and also delivered with your food bill), flavourful Mexican food with sass, and loud old school hip hop music (right up my alley) – not the place to take your grandmother for dinner though.
La Carnita is the bricks and mortar version of the pop-up taco stand that garnered an almost cult-like following by many Torontonians. Unfortunately I wasn’t part of the original cult, but I sure am loving this taco-trend in Toronto. And now La Carnita has made it to the top of my list for the best tacos in the city.
They don’t take reservations, but don’t let that deter you as it’s worth the wait. Of course it’s faster if you don’t mind sitting at the bar, which is exactly what we did. We had speedy service, delicious cocktails, filled our bellies with yummy tacos and, the telephone wire-esque looking light fixture above the bar didn’t go unnoticed.
Even though I’m a guacamole-lover we opted for the tray of tortilla chips sprinkled with ancho chili powder and salsa fresca ($6.50). I didn’t want to fill up on gaucamole and not have room for tacos! Ancho chili powder adds a nice depth without the heat of hot chili peppers. It was just enough food to get me excited for what was next… Mexican street corn ($8) and this is where the “sass” comes in. Drizzled over the grilled corn on the cob was a Mexican crema (tasted creamy obviously, but had an Asian-ish taste), queso anejo (Mexican for cheese) and more of that yummy ancho chili powder. Side note: bring floss if you don’t want corn niblets stuck in your teeth.
We had one more starter, Mexican meatballs ($8) with an ancho and chili sauce, cheese, crema and cilantro. My man was smiling, need I say more?
Let’s talk about these tacos now. We had four tacos shared between two people: First up was their signature taco In Cod We Trust ($4.75) with Voltron sauce (a spicy tamari-based concoction named for the 80’s anime super-robot), lime crema (yogurt lime-y yumminess), pickled in-house red cabbage, green apple and cilantro – so fresh. Next up was the chorizo taco ($4.75) with mango salsa, pickled red onion, queso fresco and cilantro. Then we had the ceviche taco ($6.25) which was tuna, guacamole, coconut milk, habanero tomato and cucumber. It was cold and fresh as ceviche should be. It was my least favourite, only because it was freezing cold outside, but my man loved it.
Lastly, we had their daily taco special called Sidestripe Shrimp Tostada ($7.00). It had crispy shrimp, tomatillo salsa, crema, peppery arugula and sidestripe shrimp roe – loved this one.
If you can believe, it after all this yummy food, we had dessert. This was a worthwhile indulgence, especially since I don’t eat dairy – I indulged. Fortunately I had my digestive enzymes and probiotics with me. We had a paleta ($4), which is the Mexican equilvalent of a popsicle coated with cookie crumbs that reminded me of an Oreo cookie. As I was eating it I was thinking I might regret this later, but my belly remained joyous – who knew!?!
From the food (it’s more than just tacos) to the music and the overall joyous vibe, I totally loved La Carnita. I’ve already made a date with a bunch of girlfriends to go again.
La Carnita Restaurant
501 College, at Palmerston
(416) 964 - 1555
Joy McCarthy, is a Holistic Nutritionist, food lover and owner of joyoushealth.ca