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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Street Eats - Arturo's ... or Mexican Mayhem

Mexican food ... good Mexican food is very difficult to find in Metro Vancouver.  I've been looking a long time, and outside of a couple places I've reviewed  here (Los Compadres and Dona Cata) it's been a long and fruitless search.  So when the City of Vancouver announced its street food programme, I was hopeful.  Mexican lends itself nicely to food carts.  Anyone who's been to Los Angeles or Portland will tell you that.

Just up the street from the Waterfront Skytrain station you'll find Arturo's Mexico to Go.  You can't miss it really.   Big Air-Stream type trailer with wafts of spicy smells emanating from within.  The menu is pretty straight forward:  enchiladas, quesadillas, tortilla soup ... but where were the tacos???

The taco, the mainstay of the Mexican street food vendor is absent from the menu.  The tacotino was the closet thing they had ... essentially a taco that is rolled instead of folded.

I'm honestly not really interested in the other stuff.  I'm sure it's tasty (the line-ups seem to be proof of that) but it just seems so ... predictable and Tex-Mex.  I don't want to sound like I'm being critical of Arturo's (although I likely am).  This is a business after all and you need to put items on your menu that will sell and pay your bills.  Still, if you LOVE the food of your homeland like the cook in the trailer said he did ... why wouldn't you put it on your menu?

Tacos!  Jeesh.  It's not rocket science.

The tacotino?  First of all, flour tortilla.  They claimed they couldn't get good corn tortillas.  I can (El Comal in Burnaby for one) so I'm sure they can.  The pork (al pastor) was a little dry, which could be because it was later in the day.  But the lime-chipotle sauce was so citrus-y I couldn't really taste the seasoning for the pork.  It was a bitter disappointment to what started as a hopeful discovery.

The better discovery this month was El Comal.  It's actually a importer/producer/distributor of Mexican food products.  There is a retail store front, so if you're looking for hominy for your posole, this is the place.  And yes, they have corn tortillas.

They also make their own salsas, tamales and other Mexican dishes you can take home (carnitas sold by the pound!) or enjoy in their VERY cramped dining room.  Now I know somebody's going to call "hypocrite" on me when they see the picture of the tamales I had for lunch.  Spanish rice, refried beans ... I know, pretty cliché.  But in my defence, I didn't order them specifically.  They came with the tamales.

The tamales were excellent.  Not as good as those from the sorely missed La Salza deli on Hastings, but a damn fine replacement.  Definitely worth another visit or two on the way to Burnaby Lake Park.

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Arturo's Mexico to Go
Corner of Howe Street & West Cordova
Vancouver, BC

El Comal Mexican Food
7650 Winston St
Burnaby, BC V5A2H4
Tel: (604) 420-1327

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