Cambie Taco Crawl

During the first year of my past workplace, I kind of followed my boss’ example and was a bit reclusive, aloof. The three researchers (two males, one female) stepped out of the office together every lunch. They walked by my office on their way out but a pattern had been established. Frankly, I was afraid that with the three of them, “shop talk” would dominate and that’s not my idea of a lunch break.

Halfway through my first year, a lot of students completing internships came through my department, some of them were new to the city and they did not know about the researcher-administration “divide”, invited me along, and I started to join them for lunch. And, like many things in life, I wondered why I didn’t do it earlier. We have different personalities but there are some fun conversations and we explored some restaurants together, and when we all started to go separate ways this spring and summer, there were really fun going away ‘dos!

Last week, I proposed a “Taco Crawl” to my colleague Rafe who, like someone leaving Vancouver for good in a couple of weeks, wants to milk as much out of the city as possible, happily came along.

A little while ago, I happened upon the Ursu Korean Taco truck downtown and it was fairly good (see below). But I had heard more raves about Coma Food Truck and it practically comes to my door on Wednesdays. On the last Wednesday before they they moved to a permanent downtown location, I made a point of trying it.

There are only five menu items from the truck, three Korean dishes and two Korean-Mexican fusion. We ordered the kimchi vegetable quesdilla, spicy pork burrito, and seaweed rolls. The quesadilla was quite oily but a nice tangy spicy taste with cheese, eggs, corn, onion, red and green peppers. The tortilla takes on a brilliant orange hue. I liked the seaweed rolls best of all; stir-fried julienned vegetables and vermicelli are rolled in seaweed, battered, fried, and glazed with yuzu sauce.

When Rafe and I looked at our Coma Food Truck haul, he shook his head and admitted we ordered too much. But I really didn’t want to let go of the idea of a crawl which entails at least two restaurants. Fortunately, it was a nice summer day and he was in no hurry to get back to work. La Taqueria is on the way back to the office and we had time to think since there was a line-up out the door.

The chalkboard menu describes all the taco fillings and we deliberated while we waited to approach the cashier. I asked Rafe his opinion on me ordering the tofu and he was not impressed. I also liked the sounded of the mushroom taco. But he convinced me to get taco cachete, braised beef cheeks, while he ordered taco al pastor which he says is an indicator of the caliber of the restaurant. It seemed like everyone was ordering 4 tacos which filled a plate beautifully and they were a “deal” for $9.50 (individually ordered tacos are $2.50 each). I was glad to be able to ask them to hold the cilantro. The beef cheeks were so tender and tasty and Rafe said that his was the best taco he’s had outside of Mexico! There are so many other fillings to try another time!

We did not visit Chronic Tacos, which is pretty much also on Cambie, because we were so full and we had already visited it with a larger group back in March. I like the casual style of the eatery and there are ample menu options. On my first visit, I ordered a Baja fish taco topped with cilantro-laced guacamole. On my second visit, I learned not to order guacamole or cabbage and was fairly happy with lettuce, their pico de gallo sauce, and fresh corn tortillas. We also ordered the tostada bowl which was substantial and delicious.

With the taco shops popping up (I’ve blogged about it recently), we wondered which ones would survive. Rafe was skeptical about Chronic’s future but I think they might make it because they are licensed and have the televisions and screen hockey games and UFC matches. We caught a play-off game there and I liked how there was no pressure to keep ordering food and the fare was tastier than many a local pub food. We wonder if not-yet-open Mucho Burrito will struggle though.

Although not on Cambie or part of the taco crawl, I thought I would include my Ursu Korean BBQ truck meal anyhow since it was eye-opening and made me want to seek out the other Korean-Mexican food trucks. As you can see, I wanted to sample soft and hard shell, mild and spicy sauce, and a couple of toppings. Compared to the spicy chicken hard shell taco, I enjoyed the mild tofu soft shell taco best of all. I’m really taking to the use of corn tortillas and will not accept flour tortillas for my tacos going forward.

On this day..