I once made an attempt to line up for La Carnita’s (@la_carnita) famous tacos at TUM (Toronto Underground Market) but after waiting over an hour in negative 20 degree weather and finding myself only halfway through the line, I’m sad to say I gave up. Now that this popular pop-up has opened up a permanent location on College Street, just west of Bathurst, it was finally time to find out what all the hype is about.
Unlike many of the new trendy restaurants opening up around the city, La Carnita has plenty of seating. There’s a large bar with seating near the entrance of the space with a larger dining area in the back.
Mike and I arrived around 6:45 on a Wednesday and grabbed the last seats available – a pair of stools by the entrance. During our entire meal, we saw a continuous stream of people coming into the restaurant to put their name down on the waiting list. They don’t take reservations, so plan accordingly.
La Carnita has a simple menu featuring tacos and a handful of tempting starters. We started off with the Avocado Mango Salad – with cilantro, lime dressing, queso fresco & pepitas ($8), one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The mango salad was served on top of half an avocado. There were some peppers sprinkled throughout the salad which added a nice little kick. It was a light and refreshing dish – perfect for the summer!
Since we had heard so much about the Mexican Street Corn – Mexican crema, queso anejo, arbol & ancho chili powder ($8), it was something we knew we had to order. I can assure you, the corn was just as tasty as it looked! The combination of the butter, salt, spice and sweetness from the corn was perfection.
I just wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying here trying to impress someone…it’s not the most elegant food to eat and it left my teeth full of corn. Oh, and at $8, I found the price to be really steep for 2 pieces of corn. I’ve never paid this much for corn before…
Soon after finishing the corn, our tacos were served. The server recommended 2-3 tacos per person and since we ordered 2 appetizers, we decided on 4 tacos. All their tacos are priced at $5 each. While they are pricier than Grand Electric’s $3.50 price tag, the tacos here are a little larger.
The first one I tried was one of their most famous taco, the In Cod We Trust – Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple & cilantro. This fish taco consisted of a beer battered piece of fish with a bit of tartness and crunch coming from the red cabbage and green apple. And whatever the “Voltron” sauce is, it was really working for me. A solid fish taco!
Next up was the Carnitas – pork confit, guacamole, salsa verde, pickled onions & cilantro. A classic Mexican taco done perfectly. This was one of my favourites of the evening.
Although Mike and I are big meat eaters, we also ordered a vegetarian taco, the Crispy Avocado & Frijoles – beans, crispy avocado, jicama, chipotle sauce, queso fresco & cilantro. I have to admit, this was surprisingly delicious for a meatless taco. I’m also not a huge fan of beans but I still really enjoyed it as it bound all the components of the taco together.
The last taco we decided on was the Tostada de Lengua – cilantro verde, cashew sauce, grilled pineapple, radish & beet sprouts. Unlike the rest of the tacos, this one is served on a tostada (a fried tortilla) and eaten with a fork. It consisted of thin slices of tongue and the crunch from the tostada was a nice contrast to the tender tongue. While I thought all the flavours worked well and I enjoyed the sweetness from the pineapple, it was my least favourite of all the taco dishes.
La Carnita has two desserts to choose from – churros and a selection of paletas which changes daily. We decided to try both, of course!
Today they had a selection of 3 paletas (which are similar to popsicles). The server sold us on the Strawberry Paleta ($4). It was very small treat and I found it on the pricey side for $4. However, price aside, I really enjoyed it and thought it was a really refreshing dessert. I just wish it had arrived after the churros instead as it would have been a great way to end the meal.
A few minutes after we finished the paleta, the Churros – with housemade cajeta ($5) arrived. It came with three mini churros served in a tea cup with cajeta at the bottom of it. While the churros were hot, crunchy and delicious, it was the housemade cajeta which really elevated this dessert. Reading the menu, I wasn’t quite sure what cajeta was myself. Turns out it’s caramelized, sweetened milk which tastes similar to condensed milk. No wonder I enjoyed it so much!
So, was it worth all the hype? You bet! We both enjoyed all the tacos but the corn (albeit a bit pricey) and the churros were also finger-licking good. For those of you who find Grand Electric to be a little bit of a trek, La Carnita is definitely an alternative to satisfy your taco craving.
At a glance:
• A simple menu featuring their famous tacos
• Save room for the avocado mango salad, Mexican street corn and churros
• Large space with plenty of seating but they don’t take reservations
• Located on College St, just west of Bathurst
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4.5 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars