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El Gordo

27 Aug

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheers!

El Gordo TacoBar
2518 Notre Dame Ouest
438 387 6969

El Gordo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tejano BBQ Burrito

7 Jan

My first experience of what I would qualify as true BBQ occurred a few years ago now when Blackstrap BBQ opened down in Verdun. I remember hearing about this new Southern BBQ joint opening and being interested enough to go on the first Friday they were open – getting in just before they ran out of meat – and being in awe of the level of smokiness and juiciness that the crew achieved with their meats. From that moment on, it was pretty clear to me that I would go whenever Dylan Kier and his pit mastery would go next. That thought process is what brought me a few times over the past month to his most recent project, a small burrito joint called Tejano BBQ Burrito.

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Located in St-Henri right beside Bar de Courcelles and nearby many of my favorite different culinary spots – quick shout out to Campinelli, Rustique, Leche and Grumman 78 – Tejano feels primarily set up as a take out joint although there is a small sitting area with about 7 stools. The space is sparse – plain white walls with old partially sanded down wood used for the counters. Some smooth laid back music in the background. The menu printed on paper tacked above the ordering counter. The look is definitely in keeping with its older brother Blackstrap BBQ – functional and sparse with just enough of a style and vibe keeping with a southern BBQ joint.

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But let’s be honest – you don’t go to a Burrito space for the decor. It’s all about the food of course. At present, the menu is short and concise – burritos (regular and XL sized), tostadas, salads, guac, salsa and chips. For the burritos and tostadas, there are 3 meat options (smoked chicken tinga, chorizo pulled pork, rancho cumin brisket) and one vegetarian (black beans and hominy). Once you make your selection of a base, you can add either re-fried beans, black beans and hominy (if you went with a meat) and/or rice then a collection of different vegetables (pico de gallo, red onions, radishes, jalapeños, peppers, corn, etc…) followed by cheese, fresh lime juice, house guacamole, hot sauce and/or sour cream.

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In terms of the burritos, all those options leave you with a fully stuffed burrito and a rather filling one as well. I tried both the pulled pork and the brisket options in burrito form. In keeping with Dylan’s work at Blackstrap BBQ, the quality of the meats is impeccable. The pulled pork has that little heat from the chorizo and is wonderfully tender and juicy. The brisket is the same with just a subtle touch of the cumin which gives off a smokier element than the pork. In terms of the other ingredients, I enjoyed both bean options although I’m not sure I would enjoy a black bean and hominy burrito on its own – a meatless burrito just seems wrong to me. All the vegetables are fresh and crisp. Loved the creaminess of the guacamole although I’m not a huge fan of it being the only ingredient that costs extra to add in. Overall, excellent burritos that would be a regular lunch option for me if I worked anywhere nearby (which I don’t sadly in this case).

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The new menu item for me here was the Tostada which I had never heard of before. Basically, a burrito bowl – all the same ingredients pilled over top a crispy tortilla shell. The crisp shell was good but honestly, other than the texture change with that crispiness, it’s not all that different from the burrito. A different presentation but given how I loved the burritos, I think I’ll stick to those personally.

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Reasonable price, good quality and quantity of food and quick service – All in all, Dylan, Clara and Co. have a great concept going with Tejano BBQ Burrito. It has only been open for about a month now but given what I’ve enjoyed, I suspect we will hear about this spot a lot more and very quickly in this new year. That particular corner of St-Henri is quickly becoming one of my favourite areas to enjoy food wise… I think i’ll be visiting even more often in 2015!

Cheers!

Tejano BBQ Burrito
511 Rue de Courcelle
514 303 3500

Tejano BBQ Burrito on Urbanspoon

El Rey del Taco

1 Jun

Spring is finally upon us in Montreal which means my regular excursions to Jean Talon Market are occurring once more. Outside of the wonderful produce available to us at the market, there are some very interested options for anyone looking for a good meal. One of these is El Rey del Taco, a Mexican grocery store with a terrasse space overlooking the market and dishing out some south american food. With the recent rise of tacos in the city with Grumman 78, Icehouse and Mais amongst others, El Rey del Taco can get overlooked as a worthwhile option but I am here to tell you that would be a disservice.

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Over the last month, I went for a quick lunch twice. As soon as you sit down, you are greeted with complementary tortilla chips with 3 different salsas, one mild, one spicy and one salsa verde. All 3 are enjoyable – the salsa verde in particular packs a pretty good punch.

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To cool down from the heat, I ordered a glass of horchata. For the uninitiated, horchata is a rice based beverage which I absolutely love. Nice hints of vanilla and cinnamon within this cold drink. Great refreshing beverage to balance nicely the heat of the dishes. One of my favorite summer non-alcoholic drinks.

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First up, I ordered the cheese quesadilla with guacamole. The guacamole has a nice thick consistency with the right hints of coriander, lime and tomato with the avocado. The quesadilla was quite good as well. The tortillas had the right crispness to them on the outside without becoming too brittle in general. The cheese in the middle was perfectly melted and had the right tang to it.

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As a main, I chose to go with the chorizo tacos. The chorizo was broken down and cooked perfectly well with the natural spiciness of the sausage coming out very well. The little sauce added to the mix further enhanced that flavor. Topped with some coriander and onion to add some freshness and sweetness, these were very nice balanced tacos.

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On the second visit, I went for the lamb tacos. In contrast to the spicy chorizo, the lamb was mild in flavor but had a more tender consistency and a much fattier taste as well. Topped with the same onions and coriander as the previous tacos, these tacos were quite tasty as well. I could have easily eaten the lamb by itself as a meal. Juicy, tender and falls apart without any effort. Just a wonderful cooking job there.

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El Rey del Taco is a great option for anyone looking for a good taqueria in Montreal. Service is a little up and down but the price is reasonable and the quantity are plentiful. If you come to Jean Talon Market with any regularity, you need to stop by at least one and enjoy a good meal.

Cheers!

El Rey del Taco
232 Jean Talon Est.
514 814 3813

El Rey del Taco on Urbanspoon

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