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.
Taco Time Victoria's dedicated taco artisans enhance their menu of fast Mexican eats with shells, chips, taste-bud-kicking sauces, and beef prepared fresh in-store each day. They dish up bite-size, deep-fried Mexi-Fries alongside spicy meals, and for dessert, they shower empanadas and Crustos with cinnamon, sugar, and warm fuzzies to make them extra sweet. Their original hot sauce enflames such entrees as quesadillas and burritos stuffed with canadian cheddar, and guests can take swigs of Pepsi products to cool their sizzling tongues more effectively than licking a snowman.
Nando's Flame-Grilled Chicken, founded in South Africa in 1987, brings Portugal's peri-peri flame-grilled chicken to the Vancouver area with only the bare minimum of laser lights and smoke-shrouded, two-way mirrors. Discovered by Portuguese explorers in Africa in the distant days of maritime exploration, peri-peri is a fiery chili pepper that adds a kick of capsaicin to any cuisine, clucker-related or not. Nando's fresh chicken breasts luxuriate in their peri-peri marinade for 24 hours, resulting in dishes with a slate of Scoville-scale-scorching spice levels—mild lemon and herb, medium, hot, and the daredevil-only extra hot. Step up to Nando's counter to order from the menu of sandwiches, pitas, wraps, salads, and peri-peri chicken. Enjoy a grilled-to-order peri-peri half-chicken with a side ($11.39) such as spiced rice or hearty coleslaw, or bite around basted bones with a dozen peri-peri chicken wings with a side ($9.99). Nando's also sports peri-peri chicken breast sandwiches or pitas ($8.49–$10.79), chicken or veggie whole wheat wraps with a side ($8.49–10.79), and veggie burgers or pitas ($8.49–$10.79), as well as salads and salad meals ($3.99–$9.99) for lovers of leaves of lettuce.
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.
Within a former Fraser River shake-and-shingle mill relocated to Granville Island, Cats Socialhouse’s team of expert chefs works tirelessly to forge inventive takes on traditional dishes for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Culinary gurus prove their dedication to the fusion of comfort fare with the flavours of Vancouver’s diverse influences as they whip up noshes featuring ingredients such as house-made guacamole, almond rice, fresh basil, and coconut milk. Affable servers deliver freshly minted eats, such as shrimp and chicken pad thai and juicy hickory burgers, late into the evening in order to accommodate customers’ varied schedules and hunger cravings after midnight Jazzercise classes. When outside temperatures take a turn for the balmy, a spacious seasonal patio enables alfresco dining accompanied by cool sea breezes and the stares of pizza-craving clouds.
Chronic Tacos, whose tacos and burritos were voted some of the best in Vancouver in 2011 by readers of Georgia Straight culls its recipes from the salsa-splattered pages of a family recipe book filled with three generations of Mexican delicacies. Chefs marinate and grill juicy morsels of steak, chicken, and pork several times a day, then tenderly tuck them into preservative-free corn and flour tortillas. To add extra zest, dollops of house-made salsa and sour cream perch atop tacos and, in the event of an emergency, rain from sprinkler systems.