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Why there are no good Mexican Restos in Toronto

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I have figured out WHY we don’t have good Mexican restos here. The Mexican food here is so horrible, people go, eat and think if this is what it is, I don’t want it. They have given up. Case in point. We went to Margaritas on Carlton near Parliament. Walked in. Plenty of people. Place looks homegrown. Fair enough. Perhaps in for a nice surprise?? This was the worst Mexican food I have ever tasted- no just resto food in general. I was INSULTED. The nachos were cold, and soggy. How can you have soggy nachos? Well, if you water down sour cream, two-thirds water one-third sour cream, add watered down salsa, you end up with a pool of liquid at the bottom of the plate. And I mean water- food never tasted so bland. And cheese……scanty. My blood pressure started to rise. How could anyone serve something like this? Next. I had the mole, my guest the chimichanga. We were so hungry, not finishing the nachos, waiting forever for food….we ate, barely a pass. The degree in which they try to “extend” their food is beyond compare. Peppers are inexpensive, so are beans, and water. I kid you not. We decided to have the Mexican fried ice cream for dessert, as we were with a child. How does one water down ice cream? And no, it was not ice milk; chunks of ice cream (perhaps diluted and re frozen?) sprinkled with soggy corn flakes and watered down strawberry sauce (scanty). This wasn’t bad Mexican fried ice cream, no; it wasn’t Mexican fried ice cream at all. It was a sorry excuse of a sundae. That was it. It was inedible. I called over the waitress, who was pleasant and unfortunately very overworked. I told her this was not Mexican fried ice cream AND that is was inedible. She tried to explain, but none was needed I said. I couldn’t hold back and told her the nachos were unacceptable as well. I apologized and let her know it was not about her, but about how the food is unacceptable. She was kind and gave a discount off our bill. I appreciate places like Chowhound where one can vent; share good tips, and WARN people.

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  1. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/316774
    Thread on good mexican above.
    Sorry you had a bad experience at Margaritas and that you were so insulted by the food. I would suggest that maybe next time bad nachos make you so angry your blood pressure starts to rise you should just leave instead of continuing the meal. I have found Margaritas to be ok, not amazing, but good for a drink and a snack. I have found the service at Margaritas to be great, friendly, casual...but accomodating. Sounds like your waitress was great, to bad you didn't enjoy your meal.........but for drinks and snacks you should give the place another go when you aren't so hungry.

    1. I travel to Mexico often and I've found that the best foods are also the least expensive foods, like simple tacos and flautas. These are often found in road-side stands or very simple diners. I have found that the Mexican dishes to be found in more upscale sit-down restaurants are usually disappointing. They use poor cuts of meat, are usually way overcooked, and often smothered in a bland sauce. To increase the flavour of their meal Mexicans will add fresh lemon juice and/or fresh chili sauce, both with a heavy hand.

      Here in Toronto we are subjected to the flavorless Mexican style of food but the typical Canadian doesn't know how, or can't stomach, to spice it up Mexican style.

      For my taste I prefer Tex-Mex cuisine, even though it's not authenic. What is a shame is that we can drive across the Windsor border and find excellent Tex-Mex from Detroit to California to Texas to New York. But nothing good is to be had in Toronto.

      1. I had a great lunch at El Trompo yesterday in Kensington Market on Augusta just n of Nassau. This is as close to the real deal as I have found in the city. I've been travelling to Mexico for at least the last 15 years, mostly once a year and at times I just miss their local restos. Yesterday I could have been in Mexico City. The food is simple and presented very plainly but the taste is the deal! Very rustic, mostly Spanish speaking customers, friendly homey service, decent prices. Good menu with lots of good things to share, great cheesey dishes. Dress your food with the green or red chili on the table and you're away. Muy bien! here's a link. http://www.eltrompo.ca/

        1 Reply
        1. re: capetowngirlie

          I can't believe we're talking about this AGAIN, but here goes....

          Providing a dissenting opinion, I finally tried El Trompo a few weeks ago and found the food largely tasteless. I'm not gonna pretend to be an expert on Mexican food, but I have been to Mexico, and I just thought that the flavour was missing. We had the tacos el trompo, or something, and a soup to go with it. meh. I haven't beent to El Sol in a few years, but much tastier food, or it used it be.

        2. OH MY GOD! Thank you! I am from Texas, I lived in Toronto for about 4 years. I was SO saddened at the lack of Mexican food in the GTA. AND! AND!!!! In the local Mississauga (just outside of Toronto) paper it listed TACO BELL (ahhh!!) as the best Mexican food around!

          Calming, calming….

          So anyways, thank you for posting this. Obviously I totally agree. Mexican food is sooo easy and cheap to make. It is so sad that it is so hard to find in the GTA…

          Thank goodness I’m in Cali now. I still prefer Tex-Mex to Cali Mexican style, but it might just be because I was raised in Texas.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Lemonii

            I had a great lunch at El Trompo yesterday in Kensington Market on Augusta just n of Nassau. This is as close to the real deal as I have found in the city. I've been travelling to Mexico for at least the last 15 years, mostly once a year and at times I just miss their local restos. Yesterday I could have been in Mexico City. The food is simple and presented very plainly but the taste is the deal! Very rustic, mostly Spanish speaking customers, friendly homey service, decent prices. Good menu with lots of good things to share. Dress your food with the green or red chili on the table and you're away. Muy bien! here's a link. http://www.eltrompo.ca/

            1. re: capetowngirlie

              I would LOVE to try this place. I wish I had Chowhound when I lived in Toronto. I don't doubt that there are some good places.

              1. re: Lemonii

                I was just checking out the menu and am planning to go back, soon, with a few friends to share dishes with. Gotta do the cheese!
                May sound crazy, but I discovered CH not that long ago, and it has improved the quality of my life, lol. Especially when travelling.

                1. re: capetowngirlie

                  Their traditional pork and pineapple tacos are really good, and as close as I've found to the great roadside tacqeria food you find in California and Mexico.

          2. Thanks for all the feedback..........I will try El Trompo. I have lived in the States where Mexican food is primo. I would just think there is a market for good Mexican food here....Look at all the interested CH's.....considering Mexico is a popular tourist destination. I have been putting off learning to cook Mexican due to the time & involvement it takes. But with the last issue of Gourmet having such wonderful recipes, I think I will dive in. Thanks Chows!

            3 Replies
            1. re: proof

              They do an amazing pozole on Sundays, and make their own chorizo, which you can buy. The Margaritas are definitely good, as well.

              1. re: proof

                Consider trying Rebozos as well at rogers & dufferin, inexpensive but good tacos, tortas, carnitas. Family-run (mexican family I believe), mainly take-out with 3 or 4 tables. Search on this board and you should find lots of positive comments.

                1. re: munch

                  I tried the beef tongue taco yesterday at Rebozos, it was fantastic. The chorizo taco was good, the carnita taco decent and the pozole weak. But I'll return for those tongue tacos, yum!

              2. I've been to that Margarita's. It was several years ago and I can't fathom how the place has survived. The food was awful and, when we were there, the service was appalling also.

                The market for good Mexican food does exist in Toronto, so I'm at a loss about why nobody wants to exploit it. I've mentioned on other threads that Toronto had delicious Mexican available in the seventies and eighties.

                Peasant's Larder, just west of today's Margarita's, had delicious food. The owner was a Jewish photographer from New York and it was his personal cuisine rather than "authentic" Mexican, but it was a great place. Barry Ashley was a prototypical Chowhound and the food mixed what was probably "real" Mexican with the food of his Jewish family who had settled in Mexico. There was more than a passing resemblance between Barry's refried beans and a Sabbath dish called "chulent" and lard never entered his kitchen, but I never had a bad meal there. For several years, he would also serve extra freebies (not necessarily Mexican - he would play with recipes from the latest Gourmet magazine).

                Chiles, at Gerrard and Pape, began as a takeout (not fast food - one could wait for an hour or more after ordering) and morphed into a quite haute Mexican resto (things like a fresh whole fish in sour orange sauce with huitlacoche fungus). Their cooking, and their fresh fruit drinks, were extraordinary.

                Mickey's Hideaway, around the corner from Chiles at Pape & Gerrard, served organic TexMex food and was also very good, if not in the same league as the other two places.

                Both Peasant's Larder and Chiles had long successful runs before their owners seemed to just wear out. Mickey's Hideaway moved to the Danforth, where they went bust.

                6 Replies
                1. re: embee

                  You haven't tried bad mexican food until you've been to La Cabana on the Danforth. It's really bad. The owners are nice enough, but yikes the food is crappy!!

                  1. re: embee

                    Anybody been back to El Sol recently? I haven't noticed an up-to-date posting.

                    1. re: yaddayadda

                      I went to El Sol about half a year ago. I'm still dreaming of it! We shared the vegetarian platter and it was the best Mexican food I've ever eaten. Service on the other hand, was about the slowest I've ever seen, despite the fact we were the ONLY customers in the resto. That's why I haven't been able to drag my hubbie back there yet. But the food, the food, the food. Heavenly!

                      1. re: picky_chowhound

                        Thanks. I always wonder why El Sol doesn;t get mentioned more often in the never ending discussion of "no mexican restaurants in Toronto". I used to go there all the time, but my SO went on a diet, and we got otu of the habit. Wonderful food! TERRIBLE service. We found that the best way to do El Sol was to go when they open and there is no backup in the kitchen.

                        1. re: bluedog

                          I went to El Sol a couple times. I vividly remember waiting 45 minutes for an order of Chicken Mole. It was great. Probably worth a 25 minute wait. I'm afraid I haven't been back.

                          1. re: Atahualpa

                            I've found the best approach is to order takeout before it gets too busy, and then only on a nice day. Then when your food inevitably takes a little longer then they expected, you can sit out front and have a beer to pass the time.

                  2. I have only limited knowledge of Maragaritas fare, but I would agree that the food is probably bettered by a drink or eight. I've always found the service attentive and pleasant, so it's a shame about the food.

                    I have to mention Johny Bananas (on the east side of Bathurst at Queen). I'm certainly not an expert on Latin food (and I don't believe that they serve strictly Mexican), but I've been there twice now, and I've found the food tasty and artfully presented on both occasions. I think that the way to go is the chef's selection menu - but this is perhaps a personal bias, as that's my default in most restaurants. The non-alcoholic drinks are spectacular, although on the pricey side. I can also vouch for the deliciousness of their mojito, as well as their diabolitini (sp?). The latter is a martini-esque concoction made with hot sauce. Sounds gross, but it was actually extremely tasty. And the service is fantastic - both knowledgeable and friendly.

                    My only complaint: the food is delicious, but you're paying (what I feel is) too much for it.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: lower_colon

                      It appears that most people here think of Mexican food in terms of Tex-Mex, enchiladas, nachos, etc. Whenever, as I have in the past, I see a restaurant advertising that it is going to serve REAL Mexican food, i expect to see a "For Rent" sign up very shortly.

                      I still remember the days when El Mocambo had the only Mexican food in town(along with a takeout place on Lawrence East). We went in there once, but immediately left when we saw a sign "Our food is spiced mild, to the Canadian taste".

                      This was soon followed by the Sanga, at College and Bathurst, named after the owner's hometown in Greece. Rather discouraging to go there and see the same Mexican cookbook open in the kitchen that I used at home.

                      1. re: ekammin

                        Ah yes, Pancho Taco I believe.

                        1. re: embee

                          Ortiz - "The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking"

                          1. re: ekammin

                            I haven't read the entire thread, but the simplest answer is that Mexican cuisine isn't any good.

                            Greeks are a culinary-challenged people as well.

                            Your best bet is to stay away.

                            1. re: Cimmerian

                              Wow Cimmerian, you couldn't be further from the truth. Some of the food I had in Chiapas was mind blowing. And speaking badly of Greek cuisine is...mind boggling, sure it can be done badly but done well on the shores of the sea with the salt surf in your nostrils it can be...transcendent.

                              1. re: Ender

                                Why do I get the impression that this is a wind-up, rather than a real opinion.....

                                1. re: Snarf

                                  I'm not trying to stir up trouble, I'm just giving him my opinion, which I thought could be of use to him.

                                  1. re: Cimmerian

                                    A useful opinion tends to be constructive. "Stay away" smacks of smashing things. My wife and I have two weeks coming up in Yelapa.... should we cancel? Pack a two week lunch? And then I have to wonder how we could have been SO WRONG in our opinions of the baseball taco stand on Isla Mujeres, or Cafe Tacuba in Mexico City. Mexico, Greece.... where there are people, there is good food.

                                  2. re: Snarf

                                    I partially agree with Cimmerian. I have found that the "fancy" Mexican restaurants really aren't very good, while inexpensive diners and roadside stands can be very tasty.

                                    I am referring to restaurants in Mexico, rather than Toronto. This has been my experience travelling in & around Monterrey N.L. and Merida, Yucatan. Perhaps the food in Mexico City is better, but I do not have personal experience.

                      2. The best Mexican restaurant in Toronto was one run by Kathy - her first name was Kathy... She was a short blond, about 40 (she looked 40), ran a Mexican cooking school. Her resto was deeply Mexican and deeply expensive because of the original ingredients. Her place was on Bloor East, south side, but she also relocated later, and then closed due to lack of funds or business or whatever. She was pricey, but good. And this was in 1977/79...about 30 years ago.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Dean Tudor

                          Might be an interesting story about how a blonde woman named Cathy came to run a Mexican cooking school and a "deeply Mexican" resto.

                          1. re: Jean Georges

                            She had lived in Mexico for many years, and I believed that she had married a Mexican. I can see the school, since there was absolutely nothing around then in Toronto. But whatever would have possessed her, to open a restaurant?