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The Best Tacos in Toronto

For a long time I knew very little about tacos. By very little I mean absolutely nothing. I had always been a huge fan of fajitas but for whatever reason never really got to know and love tacos. I had friends who embraced fast food taco culture early in life but it never seemed like something I would be into. If we were eating together in a food court I’d always gravitate towards a burger or something Asian. I’m glad I moved to Brooklyn during my second year of grad school as it gave me a long overdue crash course in tacos. Whether they were from taco trucks, taquieras, tortillerias, or bars I became and to this day remain taco obsessed. When I moved back to Toronto I made it a priority to seek out tacos that reminded me of the ones I’d enjoyed in Brooklyn. Below is a list of the first five restaurants who I feel have some of the best tacos in Toronto.

Salt Wine Bar: Wild Boar/Black Cod Tacos
(225 Ossington Avenue http://saltrestaurant.ca @SALTwinebar

)

Every Tuesday Salt has Taco Tuesdays. Their menu changes weekly and there are typically 3 to 4 different options you can choose from. I ended up going with wild boar with pineapple (left) and black cod with mango (right). I loved both tacos a great deal and could have eaten a lot more. If you’re free next Tuesday night I recommend checking out Salt with some friends.

Grand Electric: Taco
(1330 Queen Street West http://grandelectricbar.com @grandelectricTO

)

On my first day back in Toronto I wanted to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in over a year. Seeing as they both lived in the west end I decided to meet them at Grand Electric, a place I had heard a lot about but had yet to visit myself. I ordered the pork belly with pineapple while my friends went for beef check and baja fish. When our food came it got really quiet as we sat in silence making them rapidly disappear. This is exactly the kind of place I was looking for. The tacos and the backyard patio atmosphere made me feel like I had never left Brooklyn. Whether you’re in the mood for Mexican or just want somewhere nice to catch some drinks, Grand Electric is definitely worth checking out.

The Big Fish: Fish Taco
(406 Queen Street West)

I had just gone to Banh Mi Boys and was walking back to my car. I saw the sign for the Big Fish and still feeling a little hungry decided to see what they had to offer. Having just finished a beef taco I decided to finish my lunch with one of their fish tacos. Made to order it was crispy, delicious, and much larger than I expected. I had a great time with this taco and want to return sometime soon for their fish & chips.

Tacos El Asador: Conchinita Taco
(690 Bloor Street West Tacos El Asador )

For awhile I have been asking friends on Twitter where they love to go for Mexican. The name Tacos El Asador became a common response and I knew this meant I needed to check it out. I went for the daily special, the conchinita taco: savory pulled pork with pickled red onions. It reminded me of taquieras I had grown to love living in Bushwick. Next time I go I plan on getting two tacos and seeing what their flan is like.

2013 is a year in which I plan to find and enjoy a great deal of tacos. I still haven’t even begun to explore what exists outside of the downtown core and am looking forward to seeing what north Toronto and the other boroughs have to offer. I look forward to learning more about traditional as well as more Asian inspired tacos as well as making some of my own. If you have a favourite taco spot of your own I’d love to hear about it.

 
 
 
 
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      1. re: disgusti

        awesome. I heard Rebozo was closed, glad to hear otherwise.

        1. re: AndrewWalshe

          Kensington stall has been closed but I believe they are still on Rogers Rd and they definitely have a new location on College next to Manic.

      2. 7 lives destroys all these spots

        18 Replies
          1. re: AndrewWalshe

            They specialize in seafood, The Gobernaror and blackened mahi mahi are incredible to me, They have a baha fish as well but i feel the crispy fish gets a bit lost under the toppings, it's still really good though, All the seafood tacos are $5. They have lengua and carnitas for $3! and they are huge!!!! can't beat that, they also do shrimp tacos, love this place man, they're doing it legit and BIG, no skimpy tacos here

            1. re: Bobby Wham

              I'm no Taco expert, but the cod taco at La Carnita is pretty bad ass.

              1. re: justxpete

                I've only been to La Carnita twice but I just don't get the La Carnita appeal. Both times I had the fish and it was really not as fresh as I wanted it to be on either occassion. The first time it was so unappealing to me that I only had one bite and left the rest. I wished I liked it more so that I had a second option where there isn't always a wait.

                1. re: JennaBean

                  Did you have a fish taco, or the "In Cod we Trust" taco? I am referring to the latter. I've only been there the once (a couple weeks ago), and we thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Everything was perfectly cooked and seasoned properly, and was exceptional value for the money, we thought - considering we seem to have similar palates, I'm surprised that you didn't enjoy it. The only problem I discovered is that the Churros aren't served with chocolate. Grrrrr...

                  1. re: justxpete

                    I believe it was the in cod we trust but I can't 100 percent say for sure. Have you given GE a whirl? I just think they do it so much better but I'm a HUGE GE fan so I fully know that I'm bias.

                    I also hated the seasoning on the chips with the three dips and I wasn't really keen on any of the dips.

                    Maybe it just doesn't suit my tastebuds.

                    We like so many of the same places and dishes so this one is a little out of step for us! :-)

                    1. re: JennaBean

                      I can't get to GE early enough to be able to tolerate the wait. I'm not a stand in line/go somewhere else and wait type of person. So, when I go somewhere, I want to eat... in like 30 mins max. The few times we've been to GE, they're like "Yeah, it's a 2hr wait, so..." and then I'm like "yeah, whatevs". hehe..

                      We didn't have the "Chips", but did have a couple apps - the meatballs (?) and Arinci-type-things. Both were delicious, and the tacos were solid, the ICWT being my fav, by far.

                      Maybe they just had a bad couple nights?

                      1. re: justxpete

                        It is fully possible it was a few off nights but the prices are a bit higher (not that I really care about that) for me the food hasn't been anywhere as good and I prefer the loud and party-like room of GE.

                        GE is at the top of my bff's street, a good friend of mine owns a bar in a few doors and my bands rehersal space is a a two mins walks. As a result I always have a warm comfy waiting place and usually free drinks so I never mind the wait. :-)

                      2. re: JennaBean

                        GE
                        7L
                        LC (I feel like JB on this one)

                        Sometimes 7L blows me away. 7L definitely wins for best value IMO.

                        TIP: Grab some jerk chicken from the stall next door to take home for dinner! It is really very good.

                2. re: Bobby Wham

                  awesome thanks Bobby I'm going to try to get some friends together and check it out Monday. Looking forward to it.

                  1. re: Bobby Wham

                    Just tried 7 lives today and have to agree, it hit the spot. Had the carnita and the one with smoked marlin and shrimp. Tasty, nice flavour contrasts, great salsas. Portions are quite generous too.

                    I would give the edge to Grand Electric, but 7 lives was great for a Friday lunch, and no line-up!

                    1. re: bunnylicious

                      cool. Going to La Carnita for the first time tonight after the Raptors game, looking forward to it.

                      1. re: AndrewWalshe

                        La Carnita is great too, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

                    2. re: Bobby Wham

                      Indeed..Seven Lives, and the Gobernador especially. Huge hit of flavours and textures, and stuffed to the brim.

                      Hacienda Mexicano Grill (St. Clair/Lansdowne, next to La Paloma) - regular tacos (i.e. chorizo, pastor, $2.50) pretty good, but the ox tongue ($3.25) kills it.

                      Maizal - haven't tried but considering quesadilla quality I would give them a shot

                      Bahn mi boys - they use what I deem Chinese green onion pancakes so I don't necessarily think of them as tacos but they're pretty great too.

                       
                       
                      1. re: Chester Eleganté

                        The squid taco at BMB makes my knees weak. Honestly one of the best things I put in my mouth all of last year.

                        1. re: JennaBean

                          I second that! I always get the squid taco at BMB when I go there. Just simply amazing.

                  2. re: Bobby Wham

                    Seven Lives !? 214 Augusta ??

                    I looooove seafood tacos... Been forced to attempt homemade with just OK results.

                    1. re: PoppiYYZ

                      I think Seven Lives and La Carnita do them well as I trust the comments here/what I've read online. I know for a fact Tacos El Asador and Grand Electric do them well.

                  3. My favourite tacos so far in order:
                    1. Grand Electric- I love the spicy chicken taco, cauliflower is pretty good to as is the beef
                    2. Seven lives- love the spicy shrimp taco there
                    3. Playa cabana- tinga chicken was soo good
                    4. El Catrin- the shrimp and lobster taco (I was NOT impressed by the rest of the food)
                    5. La Carnita- beef cheek taco (on a different note I enjoy their brunch a lot)
                    6. happy hooker- shrimp tacos
                    7. Playa cabana hacienda- scallop taco (wanted to love this place but didn't love it as much)

                    Haven't eaten yet at Tacos El Asador OR Maizal so cant comment yet on those!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: akhorasanee

                      just want to note here that i am formally updating my answer to seven lives is the only taco joint in this town that is worth its salt

                      i could eat the octo taco every day and the spicy shrimp is on point. also last weekend the catch of the day was this crispy salmon joint with pineapple salsa that actually gave me a half chub. give these men your money as often as you can they deserve it for bringing some light to the pretty depressing taco situation in this city

                      1. re: disgusti

                        It's really not as bad as you state, despite your "half chub" for 7L. Frontera, *the* bench-mark for North America, doesn't serve food/tacos that are astoundingly better than what we have in TO.

                        1. re: justxpete

                          I mean I like grand electric alright and rebozo is chill but seven lives is really putting out phenomenal product, at least the vast majority of the times I've been there (frankly, an embarrassing amount). I've had crappy tacos in NYC, la, and Chicago so I'm not saying that everywhere else is all great and we're subpar, but you know as well as I do that we didn't even hardly have tacos worth eating a couple years Ago

                          1. re: justxpete

                            Frontera, *the* bench-mark for North America ? I like Rick but I disagree. It's not even the best in the US.

                            http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                            Personally the best tacos I have ever had were were from humble taco stands in Mexico. Had pressed fresh masa then fried, filling of crispy pork carnitas, stewed beef, or fried shrimp, and fresh toppings. Very simple.

                            Places that specialize or have a limited focused menu will be the best places IMHO.

                            1. re: PoppiYYZ

                              I meant for Mexican food - not Tacos in particular, and should have corrected my post. Many do regard it as the bench-mark for Mexican in NA.

                              And yes, I've been to those stands in Mexico as well.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                No worries.

                                Enjoyed watching and learning from Rick for years (decades now ?). Goes to show what being passionate about a subject and dedicating years of intense study can do ! Many restauranteurs could take a page of two from his play book.

                                That's why I love eating at places with a focus and limited menu. Specializing and doing something very well rather than having a four page menu with 90%+ coming off the back of a GFS or Sysco truck !!

                                Sooo glad to see more specialty places in Toronto when it comes to Pizza Napoletana, BBQ, Banh Mi, and Tacos.

                        2. re: akhorasanee

                          I agree with you on the crispy chicken tinga tacos. IMO, they blow away the chicken tacos from GE.

                          As for Maizal, don't waste your time. The chicken taco was so disappointing. If I didn't know better, I'd think that they put the chicken in a blender. It was like mush. In addition to that, I had to get an order of guacamole, so that I could add it to the taco, just to mask the taste of the mush that they call chicken.

                          1. re: kwass

                            Maizal is probably more authentic than what you're used to. And the chicken they have is great - incredibly moist and flavourful. An exceptional talent.

                            Also, they serve Quesadillas not Tacos, and their shells are hand-made and grinded daily using real corn.

                            1. re: justxpete

                              True, it was a quesadilla, not a taco. It's interesting that what they're serving is what a taco/quesadilla is supposed to be. I guess it's all a matter of what you're used to.

                        3. Tried the shrimp and fish tacos at Seven Lives, and though they were tasty, I found the tortilla a little tough. Kinda half way between and soft and a crispy tortilla. Didn't notice if they were pressed in house.

                          However, the house made habanero hot sauce is insane (and insane hot sauce is a very good thing) !!

                          Wouldn't hurt 'em to kinda tidy the place up a bit too. I start wondering about food handling when I see a place so unkempt (both sides of the counter). Most of the street food stalls I've eaten at have been cleaner.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: PoppiYYZ

                            I really enjoyed the mahi mahi fish taco at seven lives, very fresh tasting and quality ingredients. its great, but the only thing is, there was no salt in the fish or batter, so it was a little bland.

                            the only better fish taco I have had was Tacofino in Tofino BC.

                          2. Had the Baja Fish Tacos at Seven Lives yesterday. I have eaten them a few times before, and they were the best from all the taco places in Kensington Market. But, not yesterday, the fried fish in the taco was overcooked, dry and chewy almost, that batter was hard as a rock. I could barely finish it, and I didn't. I ate half and threw the rest in the trash and walked out. I should have complained, but the place was jam packed, and I really couldn't be bothered.

                            Being busy is no excuse for turning out inedible food.

                            I walked over to Frescos and had their extra crispy haddock and chips. Probably one of the best in the city.