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Aug 30, 2010 09:42 AM

Mexican Food a la Bayless?

Hey, guys! You've come through for me so many times before; I'm hoping you can help me again.

I am looking for some good, authentic but slightly upscale Mexican food in the metro Vancouver area. I have been to Salsa & Agave and enjoy the casual food they serve there. It is authentic and very good, but I was hoping to find a good Mexican meal somewhere other than my aunt's North Van home.

I've had the good fortune to go to Frontera Grill and was hoping for something in the same tradition: real Mexican flavors with a little contemporary twist. It would also be nice if the spot had servers as opposed to counter service. Any input would be appreciated.


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  1. I'm no Mexican cuisine expert by any means, *but* I really admire Rick Bayless and watched his show (when it was on PBS/KCTS) a lot, and also recently on Top Chef Masters (Food Network).

    As far as local establishments that *may* resemble The Frontera Grill (which I've never been), I postulate Cobre in Gastown as candidate:

    Truthfully there is a dearth of mid- to upscale Mexican-y/fusion restaurants in Greater Vancouver, but hopefully with the emerging popularity of taquerias and street foods, maybe good middle-to-higher end Mexican cuisine will finally establish itself here.

    There is also Primo's on W.12th/Granville, but I also never been there so couldn't comment first-hand.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Sam Salmon

        Maybe Cobre, though it is pan Latin American so you have to order the Mexican dishes of course. NOT Primo's. We used to go all the time when it was the only Mexican in BC but it has always been orange cheese heavy (need I say more). I am in the midst of compiling a list of all the places in the Vancouver area offering Mexican/Latin America food. I'm up to 45 and there isn't one of the 20 I've tried that I can recommend wholeheartedly. A sad state of affairs...

        1. re: grayelf

          "A sad state of affairs..."

          ¡Que lastima!

    1. Don Guacamole's on robson might be what you're looking for. Authentic and more modernist than salsa and agave.

      Don Guacamole Restaurant
      1333 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E, CA

      1. Uh...I've been to Frontera Grill. There ain't no equivalent up here. I love the thinking though!

        1 Reply
        1. re: JEheartbreak

          Don't like Don Guac's. I think you're out of luck. I ate a 5 course meal at Topolobampo a few years ago and have to say that I have never encountered a Latin American restaurant in Canada (or the Pacific Northwest for that matter) that comes remotely close. Sorry.

        2. Thanks for the info. I think I might try Cobre. I took a gander at the menu, and it looks like there are a couple of interesting dishes (the flank steak comes to mind) , though not exactly what I am looking for. It appears to me that they are trying to fuse a few too many cuisines. (Anyone else bothered by the pseudo Spanish or reference to "guac"?) I'd certainly be willing to give Don Guacamole's a shot. We'll see...

          Anewton, I wish I had made it to Topolobambo. Was it just incredible?

          Grayelf, I hope you'll share that list with us soon.

          Thanks, all!

          Cobre Restaurants
          52 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1E7, CA

          Don Guacamole Restaurant
          1333 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E, CA

          5 Replies
          1. re: liza.calderon

            liza, here's a link to my post on Cobre from March FWIW. As you will see, I am not a fan of the goofy menu lingo either.


            There's also a recentish thread on "best" Mexican:


            I'm trying to figure out the best way to present the resto list, since I haven't actually visited more than half of the places on it. If people are interested, I could just let fly and get Hounds to fill in the blanks and add more. What do you think?

            1. re: grayelf

              Thanks, grayelf! I liked your review...some items look quite yummy. I thought I looked for threads related to Mexican but somehow missed that one. It is informative though it seems a few of those places have gone out of business. I will keep my eyes and nose open and add to the list when I can.

              I suggest you just post the list and have people add info as they go. It seems to me that going to some of these "holes in the wall" might take some teamwork. ;)

              I'm up for the job!

              1. re: liza.calderon

                I've been to Frontera grlll and the closest to modern mexican her in Vancvouer would be Lolita's South of the Border Cantina on Davie or Me and Julio on Commercial Drive. Baru Latino (more south american) on Alma is also another option for good ceviches.....

                1. re: GoaGirl

                  Good calls, GoaGirl. Assume they don't in any way measure up to Rick Bayless' bar as alas I've never had the pleasure, but the menus of these restos are the most modern/inventive I've come across in town.

                2. re: liza.calderon

                  I think all the places mentioned on that thread are still extant -- just one had moved, prior to the thread being started.

                  Glad to hear you are willing to TOFTT! Here's the link to my list so far:

            2. It's a minefield to recommend any Mexican in this town, let alone "qualtiy" Mexican. Tequila Kitchen attempted such an experiment (upscale contemporary regional Mexican cuisine) and failed within months of opening.

              Instead of setting up high hopes for such a restaurant in Vancouver, maybe save your palate until you visit the States or Mexico of you upscale Mexican fix.