Eating with your hands is great way to enjoy the authentic experience of your meal and to get a little — or a lot — messy. Tacos are the perfect hand-sized vessel to discover delicious Mexican flavours.
In recent years, Victoria has seen an explosion of Mexican-themed, trendy restaurants pop up and offer up their take on the popular and inexpensive Mexican staple.
Having spent many winters in Mexico, I found tacos to be one of the best ways to eat on the road, and to keep those calories in check, so you don’t end up worrying about those $1 beers adding up.
The one thing that causes great debate between taco aficionados is trying to define a “perfect authentic taco.” In Mexico, they are served with a choice between a small corn or flour tortilla. Depending on the region you are in, you may not have a choice.
On the Baja or in resort destinations flour is more available, so tacos served there would likely be in tortilla form. If you are visiting the Yucatan or other interior colonial cities, they usually serve maize (corn) by default.
In Victoria, one of the best places to get an authentic and creative taco is Taco Justice, which can found serving long lines of locals in the Cook Street Village.
Buried under offerings of smoked pork hock, deep-fried avocado wedges, masala marinated chicken, apple chutney, deep-fried pickles, crispy potatoes, jalapeño or pickled cabbage as well as many others; their tacos are the perfect flavour explosion you expect from Mexican cuisine.
Along with their creative flavour pairings, their prices would please any starving student’s budget.
But, if you’re like me and have tried most items on the Taco Justice menu, and are looking to see what else Victoria has to offer, here are five great options.
1725 Cook Street
The guys behind the Ruby at the Hotel Zed (try their rotisserie chicken tacos) have opened a new restaurant on Cook St. called Jones Bar•B•Que. The newest addition to the taco scene, the Pork Butt Taco with pineapple, slaw and barbecue sauce melts in your mouth. The Portobello Taco is great as well, but this is definitely a meat eater’s heaven. The brisket and pork butt are the current taco offering, and you have a choice of sides like fries, potato salad, slaw and beans available. No liquor license (or plans to get one), but they have sodas. They are open until 11 p.m., but are selling out most days well before then, so it’s best to call ahead to avoid disappointment.
810 Humboldt Street
This is by far one of Victoria’s best, hidden gems. Their three-portion tacos are a great meal for one, or to share with your friends. The Chicken Thigh Taco is stacked with great toppings, stands up well, and isn’t too saucy. You can enjoy your meal on their quiet patio, or sit inside and peer into the lobby of the Parkside Hotel. They serve happy-hour drink specials and always feature Hoyne and other local breweries on rotating feature.
Vic West 120 — 176 Wilson Street
Downtown — 1017 Blanshard Street
When I first met Scott and Sindy at their cart in Cook St. Village I instantly fell in love with their menu. They were making tortillas in a traditional press, by hand, to order. Their refried beans — which are awesome with eggs in the morning — are authentic, and their creamy guacamole doesn’t disappoint. When they expanded (and eventually closed the cart in Cook Street) to Vic West, they added fish and shrimp to their meat and vegetable options. With their continued success, they grew to a second storefront on Blanshard Street, which serves breakfast, and has an excellent selection of craft beer.
787 Fort Street
What once began as a food truck to feed surfers, locals and tourists in Tofino, Tacofino’s empire has since expanded to trucks and storefronts in Vancouver, and their first shop in Victoria. Their Fort Street location is licensed, so you can enjoy craft beer with your burritos, tacos, tortilla soup or quesadillas. Their fish tacos are great, as well as their yam tacos. All varieties don’t disappoint and come loaded with fresh toppings, salsa fresca, and some have a mayo-based sauce as well. Communal tables and benches, allow you to eat elbow-to-elbow with your fellow salsa-faced, taco lovers. A little tip: don’t miss out on the Chocolate Diablo Cookie.
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop
766 Fort Street
Keep walking down Fort Street (can we call this taco alley yet?) and you will find La Taqueria Pinche. The Vancouver-based restaurant opened its Victoria location with a simple menu with meat and fish; it also offers vegetarian and vegan options, and makes great refried beans. Four tacos are about $10.50, or you can get the premium fish tacos at $5 each. The tuna is my favourite — hold the horseradish, it’s the only thing I just can’t stand to eat — and top it with their pickled vegetables or blended salsas. Their pickled cauliflower is the best.