Rainbow-coloured blankets splayed on the walls signal that Ponchos Mexican Restaurant is a great place for a feast to become a fiesta. Arrive on the weekends, and a guitar-wielding entertainer plays festive music to boost the celebratory atmosphere. Since 1988, Kaeta Vasquez and her crew in the kitchen have crafted traditional Mexican dishes, such as paella for one or two, a steak-and-enchilada plate, flautas crisp from the fryer, and fajita platters sizzling with peppers and onions. To keep the party alive, diners can order Ponchos Coffee spiked with Kahlúa and Grand Marnier, which Kaeta herself escorts to each table and lights on fire.
When Joe and Theresa Klassen first founded Joey’s Seafood Restaurant in 1985, they were simply looking to create a friendly neighbourhood eatery that served made-to-order seafood. Though the company has since expanded to more than 69 franchises across Canada, it still falls under the leadership of its founder, who frequently develops new strategies for growth and expansion while continuing to supply each location with fresh, Pacific-based seafood. Joey’s offers two distinct dining experiences: full-service restaurants (designed for families and their hungry sock puppets) and quick-serve places (designed for younger generations). At the quick-serve eateries, foodsmiths dole out a smaller menu of fried fish and shrimp. The full menu includes seafood entrees such as sautéed PEI mussels, blackened Pacific snapper, and Joey’s famous fish 'n' chips—fillets of halibut, cod, or haddock dunked into a secret-recipe batter and then deep-fried in canola oil. Nationally, the company supports the Alzheimer's Society of Canada through local and national fundraising efforts. Since 2000, its franchises have collectively raised more than $950,000 for the organization.
The sounds of a live mariachi band conjure a colourful, festive image, so it’s no surprise where El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant—with its multicoloured tablecloths, bold red walls, and green ceilings—got its name. Inside this vibrant eatery, a master chef plates authentic fare such as sizzling chicken and beef fajitas and whole fried tilapia spiked with the perfect blend of Mexican seasonings. At the bar, a veteran mixologist incorporates real limes, strawberries, and mangos into decadent margaritas and daiquiris, and nine kinds of Jarritos wash down crumbs or double as perfume in a pinch.
At Los Compadres, meals ensue within the dining room's green and red-orange walls while guests savour familiar staples of generously portioned Mexican cuisine. Flat-screen TVs display UFC fights and musicians serenade the eatery's occupants with live music and bird calls on weekend evenings. The owners decorate the menu with colourful descriptions of chorizo folded into melted cheese and chocolate-tinged mole sauce glazed over corn enchiladas.
Scanning Del Pollo's cozy dining room, it's not unlikely you'll see a few sombreros speckled throughout the largely hatless group of guests. That’s because waiters crown birthday celebrants with the classic Mexican cap, adding an air of unpretentious fun and festivity to the room. The cooks, however, make no such distinctions—they serve their authentic Mexican cuisine to everyone no matter their day of birth. These chefs fill sizzling fajitas with prawns tossed in house sauce, wrap flour tortillas around char-grilled AAA sirloin steak marinated with chipotle peppers, and whip up a Mexican poutine with achiote sauce, jalapeños, and a three-cheese blend. In addition to classic Mexican dishes, they whip up calamari with housemade tzatziki sauce and a New Orleans–style jambalaya comprised of chorizo sausage, scallops, and veggies. Bartenders complement the kitchen’s creations with a wealth of soft drinks, beers, shooters, and sangria, as well as specialty cocktails and margaritas. The soft glow from wall lamps, flatscreen TVs, and Christmas lights strung from the ceiling illuminate the live musicians who grace Del Pollo's stage.
Primo's Mexican Grill—one of Vancouver’s oldest Mexican restaurants—bustles with chefs whipping up hearty platefuls of authentic Mexican fare forged from family recipes. Patrons dine surrounded by rust-red walls dappled with 50 years worth of old photos snapped since the restaurant’s founding in 1959 by former B.C. Lion Primo Villanueva. Under the helm of Joel and Jensen, the third generation of Villanuevas to preside over the lively kitchen, culinary wizards architect zing-infused eats using mouthwatering ingredients including fresh mango, San Francisco Bay shrimp, and fresh pico de gallo salsa. The lunch and dinner menus brim with traditional dishes including fajitas and quesadillas alongside modern tapas dishes that encourage patrons to exercise their kindergarten-taught sharing skills or squirrel-taught hoarding skills. To further bolster the restaurant’s casual south-of-the-border atmosphere, eaters break bread in a dining room replete with decor including a leaping faux swordfish and a painted bison skull. A fleet of high-definition TVs perch above the bar, transmitting sports games for the grateful eyes of attentive customers.