There’s almost no better way to celebrate a birthday than with a taco feast. Tacos are one of many pleasures in my life (with an emphasis on fish tacos). All my taco tasting actually began when I declared my life to be a continuing hunt for the best fish tacos in Toronto. I have to say though, there are a bunch of bests. I can’t choose one, that’s silly. There’s so many yummy variations, and I love them all. So naturally, when my birthday-girl-of-a-friend asks if I want to go for birthday tacos at La Carnita…I say HELL YES.
I’ve been to La Carnita a few times and cannot get enough of it! This once pop-up turned perma-restaurant serves delicious Mexican street food and has a great drink menu as well! It’s definitely a Toronto taco hotspot. The food and drinks are moderate to highly priced. I’d say two people could spend within 50 dollars for drinks and a satisfying spread of food (including an app and dessert). Totally worth it though. The atmosphere is super relaxed and they play great music (not too loud). When you walk into the restaurant, you are instantly greeted by the wonderful aroma, old-school hip-hop, and friendly staff. And The charming restaurant is dimly lit with unique light fixtures and full of dark, rustic furniture. The walls are covered in custom free-hand graffiti and murals, and it is always packed. They don’t take reservations, so you just have to pray they won’t be too busy. You can leave your phone number and they’ll text you when a table becomes available for you.
The best way to pass the time while waiting for a table is to take a seat at the bar (if it’s not completely full), and choose a delicious drink from their drink menu. They have great Mexican beers as well as wines and some really unique, yummy cocktails. I order a drink and I’m usually seated before I even finish it. I generally order a mojito…because I love them. However, this time I decided to try something new. Our drink selections:
The boys ordered beers (boys do that), but didn’t end up choosing Mexican varieties. They went for a pint of Muskoka Mad Tom IPA and a bottle of Liberty Ale. We girls opted to try beer cocktails. They were new to us, and quite delicious! My drink was called the Bread & Butter and involved mixing a bottle of Negra Modelo with iced lime juice in a chili and salt rimmed glass. She chose to try the OG Michelada, which was like a delicious spicy beer caesar. This was a mix of Clamato, lime juice, hot sauce, and a cold can of Tecate. If you like caesars, that’s a good one to try. I have a friend who lives and dies by La Carnita’s Who Shot Ya, which is a pink bourbon-based drink, and apparently delicious. It’s a mix of bourbon, ginger, lemon, and hibiscus grenadine. So creative!
As predicted, a table was ready for us before we were even five sips into our drinks. We sat down, got comfy, and began to devise our taco plan of action.
If I could, I would order everything on the menu. They have a selection of yummy starters. We always start with the crispy housemade tortilla chips (that are dusted in ancho chile powder..yum!). The toasty chips can come with one side, or all three that they have to offer. We always do all three (again, don’t ask me to pick one). They make slight changes to the menu throughout the year. This visit we had a trio of guacamole, a fresh housemade salsa fresca, and a mezcal chipotle pate. I checked out their current menu and they’ve replaced the salsa with a sikil pak (Mexican pumpkin seed dip)…a reason for me to return! Chips are great! Dips are great! We ordered more tortillas to finish our remaining dip. “Umm, NO I’m not done with that!”
I’ve got to go back to try some other starters. I’ve had a swordfish ceviche there in the past that was delish. They also serve Mexican meatballs, avocado mango salad, and Mexican street-corn (when in season) charred to perfection with a Mexican crema drizzled over top.
Now for the main event…TACOS! La Carnita does a variety of different tacos. All have their own kind of flavour and are yummy in their own way. The restaurant also offers daily taco specials, so there’s a featured taco for every day of the week. One of the features I have yet to try (but I’ve heard all about) is a crispy squid taco that they’ve named Squid The Kid (love their fun taco names). Crispy squid + mango hot sauce + crema + lime cabbage + red chillies + cilantro…sounds like Mexican seafood heaven to me. I’d like to go there when I die, please.
Side note about the strategic food-ordering skills I’ve developed with my boyfriend to maximize how many yummy dishes we can taste in one meal (that I’ve mentioned in other posts)… Our taco eating secret is to order all different tacos and eat half each. This is the best way to enjoy all the different flavours, and not have your jeans burst open during your meal. (If you explode, you probably won’t be able to ever eat again…big foodie fail). We usually do four tacos between the two of us.
This visit, our quartet decided on two orders of In Cod We Trust, La Carnita’s famous voltron fish taco. I’m not religious, but I definitely believe in cod. 🙂 This taco is a MUST every time I go. (I told you about my fish taco addiction.) Fried cod + voltron sauce + lime crema + pickled red cabbage + cilantro = fish party in your mouth (pickled cabbage is one of my fave taco toppings).
In Cod We Trust (half-devoured)
We also ordered two Crispy Avocado & Frijoles tacos. These are so yummy and a great vegetarian option. Beans + crispy avocado + chipotle sauce + queso fresco (cheese) + cilantro = creamy, crispy, beany goodness.
Crispy Avocado & Frijoles taco
Another one I always go for is the Tostada De Ceviche. I gravitate towards the seafood options, and I LOVE ceviche. Swordfish + guacamole + coconut + habanero + tomato + cucumber…on a crispy tostada. The tanginess of the ceviche with the guacamole (and a bit of spice) is wonderful.
Tostada De Ceviche (two on the left)
A really good taco, if you’re not seafood-crazy, is the Pollo Frito. Chicken + peanut mole sauce + pickled green cabbage + salsa fresca. My favourite part about this is that the chicken is SPICY. I love a good kick to my food, and this was a very pleasant surprise. The pickled cabbage and spicy kick work wonderfully together.
The Beef Cheek!!! Another taco that offers some good, spicy flavour. Ancho braised beef cheek (tender creaminess) + lime avocado + green cabbage + pickled jalapeno + crispy shallots = spicy, cheeky love wrapped in a tortilla blanket.
Beef Cheek up front, Pollo Frito behind
One of the boys chose to go for the Thursday featured taco, the Cochinita Pibil. This is braised pork + orange jicama salsa + pickled onion + queso cotija. (The pictures tell me there may have been some guac in there too.) Never tried this one, but it looks almost like juicy pulled pork and I was told it was tasty and reminded him of chili.
When the taco platters start to arrive I get excited for what’s coming. We each bite into our first tacos and smile. So great sharing good food with good people. We spent our time eating, drinking, chatting, comparing tacos, and picking favourites. Before I even knew it, I was stuffed.
I’m not too much of a dessert person, but it was a birthday celebration after all. The dessert menu consisted of Churros, Paletas, and Tres Leche Cake. I pointed out that there were four of us, and three churros in a single order. We sort of hesitated to order six of these Mexican doughnut sticks. We were so full. However, the waitress laughed and said not too worry about it. People fight over churros, they would be eaten. We took her word for it and asked for two orders.
It was a smart decision, because they were delicious. Warm, crisp, and sugary, and served in a cup of warm housemade cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk). Non-dessert-eating me ended eating two churros, and scraping every last bit of cajeta from the cups. Sometimes I like dessert…
When you get your bill, it always comes along with a free limited print of a Dia de los Muertos inspired skull done by different artists. I think you can buy the prints too. It’s just one more thing I love about La Carnita. The work they do with art and the support they give artists. They’ve incorporated some amazing art in their restaurant, in the lighting and the art and murals on the walls. Super cool.
The print I got with my last meal to add to the collection 🙂
In a city as cultured as Toronto, there are so many great restaurants to try! La Carnita is one of my favourite Mexican restaurants. If you haven’t been there, you should give it a try. I think you’ll love it. 🙂
They’re located near College & Bathurst. On College St. just west of Bathurst St. (501 College St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.) Check out their website!
Happy feasting! xx