El Chapo: Tacos with Attitude “It’s what’s on the inside that counts”
Tacos have been #trending in Toronto for a few years now, and it seems this isn’t just a fad with more and more authentic taco restaurants popping up in the GTA. El Chapo opened its doors in March 2018 and is the newest kid on the taco block.
Located at the corner of Adelaide Street East and Toronto Street, this taco shop and coffee bar aims to replicate the atmosphere of a traditional “taqueria” which by definition has excellent food and service. They specialize in street style tacos but also offer a range of other delicious Mexican fare.
The dining room has four large sharing tables with bench like seating and plenty of napkins at your disposal – trust me, this is key. The space is colourful and vibrant with music and chatter flooding the room. Despite being a casual cafeteria-style experience, the quality and taste are not lacking. There is absolutely no mystery meat here.
Chef Angel Rueda is a Mexican native and brings his traditional culinary tastes to the table. His palate developed after visiting several towns in Mexico and learning recipes from scratch. He sought out to master Mexican culinary traditions before bringing them to Toronto.
At El Chapo, $5.95 will get you just about any taco of your choosing. And let me tell you, these tacos are loaded! Each one comes with a double stack of the soft corn tortillas – it takes a strong soft shell to hold up against these flavour packed tacos, piled high with the good stuff (meat), and signature toppings picked for optimal flavour pairings
Here were the standouts:
The Tinga Taco - pulled chicken with tomatoes and smoky chipotle was juicy, tender and bursting with flavour.
The Fish Taco – battered haddock with rosemary guacamole, baby kale, roasted beet vinaigrette, carrots and guajillo pepper aioli was delightful! It provided the perfect crunch you expect in a fish taco, and the flavours all worked really well together.
Tacos De Barbacoa – slow braised beef brisket in banana leaves and spices, and topped with baby kale, spicy guajillo sauce, cilantro, red onion and lime. This meaty taco was tender, savory and oozing with flavour. Add extra hot sauce if you please, this one can handle it!
Tacos Al Pastor – El Chapo declares this the most popular street-style taco. Supple pork with secret Mexican spices, topped with fresh pineapple, cilantro and onion. This taco did not disappoint. The combination of flavours is no doubt what makes this taco so popular. The crunch and sweetness of the pineapple against the salty pork is what taco dreams are made of. My only criticism, I wish the pork was shredded or pulled (personal preference).
El Chapo also caters to the veggie lovers – offering a veggie taco, tortilla soup, mushroom queca and a selection of salads. And you bet they have pico de gallo and guac. Another tasty Mexican signature is their butter esquites – sweet corn kernels sautéed with butter, Mexican epazote and jalapenos, topped with guajillo pepper aioli and cotija cheese.
This taco joint lives up to all the hype with something for everyone, even coffee. Coffee and tacos may not be the most traditional pairing, but in this case, it seems to work. Be sure to check their coffee shop hours online, as they vary from the restaurant.
If you consider yourself a taco enthusiast, the annual Taco Fest is June 15-17 at Ontario Place. Here you can celebrate everything Mexican, from tacos and tequila to mariachi bands and a hot sauce bar. The vendor list hasn’t been published yet, but I’m hoping we will see El Chapo there!