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Pretty darn real Mexican at Calgary Farmers' Market

John Manzo Jan 11, 2008 11:45 AM

In the bay where that seafood place was momentarily at CFM, we now (opened today!) a REAL Mexican place called Don.... something. Don Antonio? I think Don Antonio. They have a full menu of tacos-burritos-flautas and such, NO SHREDDED LETTUCE, CORN tortillas for tacos- it's enough to make me cry.

I only had the Carne Asado Tacos today but they leave me with great hope: 4 tacos of nice beef with a light slather of their red salsa, cilantro, green onions and radishes. No hateful lettuce! No cheddar! No pico de gallo either but these were very good. Unfortunately you can't order tacos a la carte but the rice and beans were pretty good too. 4 tacos and rice and beans are $9.75. Yes, you can get four tacos for maybe $6 in SF or wherever, but this is pretty fantastic.

I look forward to trying one of my fave things- a real chile colorado burrito with beef and potatoes- something I've never even seen on menu in Canada.

  1. c
    cdn Jan 11, 2008 12:06 PM

    OMG....now if only they served breakfast Kolaches, (this might be houston thing)
    thanks john for the update, i'm on my way for tonights dinner takeout!
    do they make their own hot sauce?

    6 Replies
    1. re: cdn
      John Manzo Jan 11, 2008 12:53 PM

      YES THEY DO!

      And I meant "carna asada" of course :)

      1. re: John Manzo
        c
        cdn Jan 11, 2008 02:15 PM

        so im back with dinner, tried the hot salsa.....not that hot. but i understand that the owner will be carrying more selection as he gets setteled. they just opened today.
        cant wait to try dinner.

      2. re: cdn
        littlegreenpea Jan 16, 2008 09:22 AM

        What are breakfast kolaches? They're Mexican? I only know of kolaches being a Czech pastry, often topped with apricots, or poppy seeds, or a bit of cheese.

        1. re: littlegreenpea
          c
          cdn Jan 16, 2008 01:39 PM

          Yes you are right, but in Houston they have "adopted" them. They fill them with the usual breakfast fillings like eggs, ham, sausage cheese etc. With such a Mexican influence there, they are most popular filled with spicey mexican flavours and served with hot sauce! Some place serve dessert ones too, topped with same types of things you mentioned. Like I said I think its a pretty regional thing but some days I sure do miss them!

          1. re: cdn
            m
            Merry113 Jan 16, 2008 02:27 PM

            I love Houston kolaches!!!! My favorites were the cheese, sausage & jalepeno (all together) and the strawberry cream cheese. They were kind of like toppings inside a dinner roll type thing. Hard to explain but very, very yummy!

            1. re: cdn
              littlegreenpea Jan 16, 2008 05:58 PM

              Wow, I had no idea. That sounds wonderful. I'll have to get to Houston some time!

        2. maplesugar Jan 11, 2008 01:35 PM

          Excellent news! I was wondering what was going to become of that stall. Thanks again for the update :)

          1. c
            cdn Jan 11, 2008 05:07 PM

            we busted out the hot sauce and a selbach-oster riesling-kabinett and had an early dinner. (i couldnt wait much longer) AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. we have had our fair share of mexican and this ranks pretty close to the mexican lunch wagons....i say that meaning the lunch wagons are the best mexican on the planet, those ladies know how to cook!
            i'm looking forward to the expanded menu, hotter hot salsa, and a whole lot o'takeout.

            1. John Manzo Jan 12, 2008 02:06 PM

              went back today, we shared a chile colorado burrito, chicken "tres colores" enchiladas and one big fat chicken tamale. Everything was very good, especially the enchiladas, but I have a big gripe: The burrito was $12.95, which was for the tiniest burrito I have ever seen. It was tasty, yes, but I'd say they had better either reduce that charge to, say, $5.95 or else make the order two (or three) of these things. Delicious, but no way am I ordering it again.

              The tamale was a lot bigger than ones I grew up with and completely delightful- at only $3.25 which included rice and beans (we are not sure if that was a screwup or not) it's great value.

              9 Replies
              1. re: John Manzo
                y
                yen Jan 12, 2008 03:56 PM

                I was all excited to come home and have something to try - you had to ruin it with a 12.95 price tag John!? At least if they do a decent taco with real fillings (cmon lengua! al pastor! carnitas!), it'll be worth something.

                Oh, did they have fresh lime for the tacos? Radishes are key, but they need the tartness of the lime. Mi Tu Tierre (sp?) offered me lemon. Lemon!?

                1. re: yen
                  John Manzo Jan 12, 2008 04:55 PM

                  they have al pastor tacos, not sure about the lime issue though something tells me you can buy a lime at the market somewhere.

                  the TACOS are cheaper- 4 w/ rice and beans (very good btw) for $9.75.

                  1. re: John Manzo
                    y
                    yen Jan 12, 2008 09:41 PM

                    Buy my own? That's like saying going to your favourite sushi bar and buying your own soy, buying a burger and buying your own ketchup - i always COULD, but i shouldnt have to.

                    1. re: yen
                      John Manzo Jan 13, 2008 07:16 AM

                      Yen I am pretty sure they have limes. It wasn't my priority so I did not see it. But a lime is what, a quarter? It's not like a bottle of soy sauce or ketchup.

                      I'm not saying it's all right to have to supply your own but they are still working things out there, they only opened 2 days ago.

                  2. re: yen
                    m
                    Merry113 Jan 25, 2008 02:09 PM

                    I tried the al pastor tacos today and they were really good. It was $9.75 for 4 small tacos. The plate came with rice, beans, sour cream, salsa & a wedge of lime. Everything was very yummy and well spiced though not hot at all. I added salsa to everything and it added taste but no heat. I would like an option for "hot" as opposed to "canadian" spiced. Coming from the US (Texas), I find that most of the Mexican food is de-heated for the Canadian palate. I will definitely be back though I did find it a bit pricy. The enchiladas looked interesting but I didn't want to shell out $12.95. Obviously neither did anyone else as I was the only person in line (though the Greek place next stall had about 15 people in line). They need to get more staff as well b/c the person who took my order disappeared for >5 minutes after I ordered so no one could have ordered if they had wanted to. Hopefully they get it together & stay open b/c the food IS good.

                  3. re: John Manzo
                    maplesugar Jan 12, 2008 08:13 PM

                    I was at Don Antonio's today too - just had to try it based on the earlier posts. I agree the $12.95 price tag was difficult to swallow.

                    I had the Enchiladas Pablanas and while I didn't like paying so much they were delicious! I'm no expert when it comes to real Mexican food but the cocoa sauce (which, I thought that was a mole??) was amazing...spicy but not overpoweringly so (which is nice since I'm a bit of a whimp). My $12.95 also got me a small side of rice and refritos and a tiny almost garnish size green salad topped with some excellent guacamole. If it weren't considered rude I might have licked the remaining cocoa out of the non-biodegradable styrofoam container.

                    1. re: maplesugar
                      John Manzo Jan 13, 2008 07:18 AM

                      It is mole.

                      Folks, if $12.95 is too much it behooves us to let them know. They seem to have thrown darts at prices.

                      1. re: John Manzo
                        maplesugar Jan 13, 2008 10:00 AM

                        I didn't but I will next time - I did mention that they were getting buzz on here though :)

                        and thanks, I thought that was mole and was puzzled as to why it wasn't listed as that on the menu... I'm sure they're just working out the kinks but there were a few times while I was waiting on my order and for the people before me that the counter person disappeared into the back... a few people walked away muttering about no one being there to serve.

                      2. re: maplesugar
                        k
                        kritafo Jan 13, 2008 09:40 AM

                        I have to go now...I am hoping next week I can get there. I am all about Mole... when you can add cocoa in the main meal it doesn't get better than that!

                    2. s
                      Sharksgirl Jan 15, 2008 11:06 AM

                      Does anybody know what time this place is open till? Is it in the farmers market? I have never been to the market... Thanks for any info!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sharksgirl
                        John Manzo Jan 15, 2008 02:16 PM

                        yep, in the market, open market hours, 9-5 fri sat 9-4 sunday.

                        1. re: John Manzo
                          Sorbethead Jan 15, 2008 03:06 PM

                          The filling for the chile verde burrito was cooked very nice & had great flavor & meat was very tender. For $12.95 this burrito should weigh at least 1 lb. It was very small & flimsy. They need to buy large tortillas & wrap their burrito tightly in tin foil. It is then eaten by peeling away the foil. The rice seemed to be converted rice, it did not have that puffed quality that good mexican rice has. Best thing about checking this place out was it has made want to cook more mexican at home. Calgary is still very far away from having a good taqueria.
                          Check out the following site for more burrito info http://www.burritoblog.com/

                      2. sharonanne Jan 18, 2008 04:40 PM

                        I went today for lunch at 1140 thinking I'd miss the lunch rush but the high school across the street must break for lunch at 1130.

                        I had the carne asada tacoes and they were really good. Good meat, incredible rice and refired beans. They even have the right cheese. I got 2 chunks of lime, Yen.

                        I noticed the students were lined up for the Greek place and giving this one a pass. I think the price plays a part. Far be it from me to suggest a place 'dumb down' their food but they might consider a cheaper dish or two to catch the students on Fridays.

                        I bought their salsa. Also, rather expensive at $6 for 500 ml but if they use good tomatoes I can handle it. Was labelled hot, we'll find out.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: sharonanne
                          c
                          cdn Jan 18, 2008 09:42 PM

                          Its not hot! Its not even mild.....

                          1. re: cdn
                            sharonanne Jan 19, 2008 07:50 AM

                            Then they've added something to it because we used it last night and it was hot. There were visible seeds. This salsa was labelled Don Antonio hot salsa and sold from the refrigerator case at the front. The tomatoes were more crushed than diced and there were visible pieces of cilantro.

                            And it isn't just my wimpy taste, my husband was raised in Trinidad and fed by a Jamaican cook. It wasn't unbearably hot but he said it had a kick to it.

                            This is either something different or they got different peppers the day they made this batch.

                            1. re: sharonanne
                              John Manzo Jan 19, 2008 01:59 PM

                              OMG Sharonanne my hubby is trini too!

                              I don't think they need to dumb down a thing- they DO need to lower their prices.

                              1. re: John Manzo
                                sharonanne Jan 19, 2008 03:17 PM

                                I remember the Trinidad link. We'll have to contunue plans for a CH get together.

                                I'm curious about this place's business plan. The labels on the salsa look professional and the board promises more kinds of salsa coming soon. I wonder if that will be more of a focus over time.

                                1. re: sharonanne
                                  d
                                  Dan G Jan 19, 2008 03:59 PM

                                  Reading through all of this, I realize that Don Antonio doesn't seem to have announced his history to Calgary. Cesar (Don Antonio) has been around for years in Edmonton, starting with a booth at the Strathcona Market, starting with fajitas, chips and salsas. Been there for most of this decade. Over time, he's added items, then started a restaurant here. I guess now he's expanded to Calgary.

                                  That's why it looks professional - it is a long-standing business.

                                  Can't remember his exact history, but Cesar started cooking in a restaurant his mother owned in Mexico years (decades) ago, moved to Canada, has cooked various places, settled near Edmonton...

                                  Yes, the prices are a bit high, but it is straight out of Mexico, authentic and good.

                                  1. re: Dan G
                                    John Manzo Jan 19, 2008 04:24 PM

                                    He did tell me all about his Edmonton resto. Maybe he'll open one in Calgary now.

                                    1. re: Dan G
                                      littlegreenpea Jan 22, 2008 09:07 AM

                                      Where is his Edmonton resto? And does he still operate out of Strathcona market?

                                      1. re: littlegreenpea
                                        d
                                        Dan G Jan 22, 2008 09:44 AM

                                        Yes, he's still at the market on Saturdays, pretty much dead centre, in the aisle that has Helbigs veggies on one end and the native plants/grasses guy on the other.

                                        The restaurant is on the east side of 124 st, just north of 107 ave . Pretty much across from Audio Ark stereo shop (the day I tried it, I was shopping in AA and went there for lunch and to think over a purchase...).

                                        1. re: Dan G
                                          littlegreenpea Jan 23, 2008 08:48 AM

                                          Great, thanks. I'll keep an eye out!

                          2. John Manzo Jan 27, 2008 02:05 PM

                            Went today- got the tacos al pastor and partner got the tres colores enchilada with chicken, and a chicken tamale with salsa verde.

                            Prices are the same but it sure seems that we got a lot more on our plates, especially the enchiladas- all told we spent $26 for two and were very reasonably stuffed. The tacos are done right with nicely seasoned pork and the same radish-cilantro-green onions garnish as before; I prefer the carne asada but these were great. The tamales are a delight, best I've had since I was a kid and we'd get them from a Mexican neighbour lady, just superb.

                            YEN: YOU DO GET LIME WEDGES!

                            They had tons of samples and I tried enchildas roja and this salsa that was superb, made with pureed red peppers to it had the appearance and texture of a mouhammara, and it was plenty hot.

                            They have two empanadas (not tiny ones) for $6 with a little salad, nice option.

                            I loved this visit and didn't feel ripped off at all; even the service was way way faster than first time.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: John Manzo
                              y
                              yen Jan 27, 2008 04:37 PM

                              Lol. I went today too John. I also got the tacos al pastor, and a tamale.
                              My take isnt quite as overwhelmingly enthusiastic as everyone elses, but let me give it anyway.

                              While waiting for my tacos, i sampled the two salsas they had. Their "hot salsa" was not very hot, but the flavour was great. The other salsa wasnt in the least bit memorable.

                              When the tacos came (about 5 minutes), it was pretty much as people have described. 4 tacos, rice, and beans, two lime wedges, and i was given the option of salsa and sour cream. I took them up on the salsa.

                              The taco's themselves were on single corn tortillas. Something, for all you connected people, i would appreciate you getting them to change. Singles have a tendency to get soggy, and not hold the taco. It also doesnt, imo, lend the right amount of masa to filling texture and flavour. Some variety in salsa (like a salsa bar) would be nice as well. Especially at the price.

                              The filling itself was good. The seasoning was pretty spot on, but the texture wasnt quite right. Im not sure if they spit grill their al pastor, or just toss in a fry pan, but my guess is fry pan. The quantity left a bit to be desired from my perspective. The tacos were fairly skimpy, but on a single tortilla, they were probably at their breaking point.

                              The rice and beans were neither poor, nor outstanding.

                              Anyway, at 9.75 for 4 tacos, i find the value a bit lacking. If these were monstrous tacos, i could see it being worthwhile. But i found the quantity lacking, but the quality was decent. Probably, as has been rightfully said, some of the best tasting taco's i've had in Calgary. But it doesnt qualify for my "run out and eat there" list.

                              As for the tamales, they were made with vegetable oil (what the guy said), or perhaps vegetable shortening (my guess). They lacked the creamy richness that comes from lard, and at $3.25, a bit pricey. Decent flavour, and quite reasonable. Great? No.

                              They did have specials on today. 2 different Burritos were on for $9 (instead of $13), and they had an empanada special. Might be worth a try.

                              1. re: yen
                                Sorbethead Jan 27, 2008 07:30 PM

                                We are getting close to the perfect review of Don Antonio. Great review Yen.

                                1. re: yen
                                  John Manzo Jan 27, 2008 07:51 PM

                                  Yen, who was being "overwhelmingly enthusiastic"?

                                  Lard is haram. I do not want lard in my tamales.

                                  1. re: John Manzo
                                    y
                                    yen Jan 27, 2008 08:08 PM

                                    "we busted out the hot sauce and a selbach-oster riesling-kabinett and had an early dinner. (i couldnt wait much longer) AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. we have had our fair share of mexican and this ranks pretty close to the mexican lunch wagons....i say that meaning the lunch wagons are the best mexican on the planet, those ladies know how to cook!"

                                    Though i guess my words "everyone elses" was incorrect. I was just trying to say that i didnt rank it as highly as others in this thread.

                                    As for lard, we'll just agree to disagree.

                              2. maplesugar Mar 1, 2008 04:39 PM

                                I'm sad to report (for those of you who haven't been to CFM this weekend) that Don Antonio's is closed. Nothing left but paint and that silly chef statue (that I think predated DA's) The word from the guy in the booth next door is that in a few weeks we'll be getting a Cuban resto in it's place. Anyone have any more info on their abrupt departure?

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: maplesugar
                                  John Manzo Mar 1, 2008 06:53 PM

                                  Let's hope they don't charge $12.95 for a Cubano.

                                  1. re: maplesugar
                                    m
                                    Merry113 Mar 13, 2008 08:35 PM

                                    That is sad but I'm not surprised. There dishes were a bit small for the price. They also didn't seem to really want to "hustle" to get more customers. The few times I ate there, they would take my order & then disappear for the next 5 minutes or so with little regard to whether there were other customers that might want to order.

                                    1. re: Merry113
                                      John Manzo Mar 13, 2008 10:22 PM

                                      No surprise here either- I have a tendency to get a little too enthusiastic the first time I try a new place; with this one the honeymoon ended pretty fast, especially after having amazing tacos at a SF hole in the wall for $2 each.

                                      1. re: Merry113
                                        m
                                        miss_bennet Mar 14, 2008 01:12 PM

                                        Maybe they would "disappear for the next 5 minutes or so" because they were busy cooking, not because they had "little regard to whether there were other customers that might want to order." Sometimes fast food-like places need to actually make the food that has been ordered, and there just aren't people willing to work for minimum wage (or more) pedalling fast food. Then again, maybe Calgary has no problems finding minimum wage workers.

                                        1. re: miss_bennet
                                          John Manzo Mar 14, 2008 02:17 PM

                                          miss_bennet, you had to experience it to know what Merry's talking about- it was maddening. And Calgary has what might be the tightest labour market on the planet- one in which nobody is merely making minimum wage.

                                          I noted that the Cuban place appears open, but sadly it looks like the same service format- it looks completely empty. They have to bring the food-making up front or something.

                                          1. re: miss_bennet
                                            m
                                            Merry113 Mar 14, 2008 04:02 PM

                                            I didn't mean to imply that they didn't have a reason for the disappearance, just that it wasn't good for business. I would be standing there waiting for my food & people would walk by, looking interested but would leave b/c no one would appear to take there order.

                                            1. re: miss_bennet
                                              sharonanne Mar 14, 2008 08:22 PM

                                              I stood there with another couple of potential customers for 5 mins before someone emerged from the back to even take our orders. There was no one waiting for food so while they may have been busy back there it wasn't with preparing food for a current customer.

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