Where once we had very limited taqueria options in Montreal, now every neighbourhood seems to have one. No complaints on my end although it is hard to give them all a try. For the occasion of a friend’s birthday and just a good Friday Happy Hour, I found myself recently at a taco bar that opened up in Little Burgundy just a short walk from my place, El Gordo Taco Bar.
Started by the same group that owns the neighbouring Geppetto pizzeria, El Gordo is a smallish bar specializing in tacos and other Mexican fare. With the summer weather, they have a nice terrasse out-front off Notre-Dame that increases seating. The space has a nice look to it – Day of the Dead motif and lots of natural lighting through the big windowed facade. Once crowded, the space is pretty loud but the ambience is solid.
Any good bar needs some cocktails and El Gordo satisfied that nicely. Their classic Margherita with agave nectar, fresh lime juice and tequila is nicely balanced. The sweetness of the agave and the fresh lime helped to soften the tequila hit. The Pineapple express with bulleit bourbon, fresh pineapple juice, cilantro and lime was similarly balanced. All the cocktails are available by the pitcher which is a great for a group as we were!
A couple of starters before the tacos. First was the chips and guacamole. The guac was pretty smooth in texture and had lots of lime juice. A little bit of queso fresco on top added a little twist. The plantain empanadas were served with a spicy paste that my girlfriend enjoyed a fair bit. The empanadas had nice crunch to them but they were not that exciting flavour-wise.
El Gordo has 9 standard taco flavours and a special of the day. The standard dish has 3 tacos each and they are pretty small size-wise. For me personally, 3 wasn’t enough to satisfy my hunger although the server said as much to me ahead of time. Just be aware of that when you order. My girlfriend ended up regretting not ordered more as she was still hungry later on. The good news is that each taco only comes up to 3-4$ a piece so the price is fair. I tried 3 varieties on this visit. First were the chorizo tacos – served with pickled onions, habareno jam, queso fresco and salsa verde. All the tacos are served on soft tortillas which is my preference. Nothing of that hard shell B.S. The chorizo was nice and tender and the rest of the topping provided a slightly sweet and spicy edge.
The second variety was spicy braised beef brisket with creamy apple and cabbage slaw and pico de gallo. Another hit to us. The smoky brisket was excellent and I really enjoyed the slaw and the hint of sweetness that came from the use of apples. The pico de gallo added some extra freshness.
The final variety was the special of the day and my personal favourite of the night – fried chicken with guacamole, chipotle mayo and creamy coleslaw. I really enjoy the extra crunch provided by the fried chicken. The addition of the guacamole made these tacos feel a little more hearty and the mayo really had a kick to it.
The only real negative of the evening was the service. Over the course of the evening, we had two different errors on our order – once our entrees “disappeared from the computer” and in the process of re-ordering, our waitress forgot the nachos we had asked for originally. Second time, my friend’s order of ceviche was mistook for “vege” tacos. Now, we didn’t make an issue of the nachos as by the time we figured out she had forgot them, we were ready to move out anyway. However, two errors like that are not really acceptable regardless of how nice the servers were in acknowledging the mistakes.
Good tacos, excellent drinks and a nice decor – El Gordo definitely has a place as a solid happy hour and dinner location. The lack of good happy hour spots around the Market plus the fact that they open at 3pm weekdays and don’t take reservations means that El Gordo can certainly fill a nice niche. A few service tweaks and I would be satisfied. I’m just happy I have excellent tacos to enjoy so close by.
El Gordo TacoBar
2518 Notre Dame Ouest
438 387 6969