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.
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.
Bandidas Taqueria brings fresh, handmade Mexican fare to Vancouver, with a menu of authentic cuisine that earned the restaurant Golden Plate honours in 2010 from online readers of the Georgia Straight as one of Vancouver’s best Mexican restaurants and the best new East Side restaurant in the city. Vancouver’s vegetarians and vegans in particular will find much to celebrate on Bandidas Taqueria’s menu, because all dishes are meat-free and many can be modified to vegan with a simple hardware hack. Kick things off with a large order of chips and salsa ($6), the spicy tortilla soup ($7.50) containing roasted tomatoes in a rich vegetable stock, or a breakfast burrito ($7) enveloping scrambled free-range eggs and Bandidas’ freshly made salsa. Bandidas’ tacos and burritos, available with rice & beans ($2 extra) or a side salad ($3), use handmade corn tortillas and whole-wheat tortillas, respectively, to house fresh ingredients such as the pinto beans and jack cheese of the Laura May ($9 for five tacos, $6 for burrito) or the spicy breaded walnuts and pinto beans of the Camillo ($10.50 for five tacos, $8 for burrito). Brigades of brunchers can opt for Bandidas Taqueria’s daily brunch, featuring items such as huevas rancheras ($10.50) with free-range eggs atop handmade corn tortillas, and the Hicks Benny ($11), with free-range eggs, fresh guacamole, and your choice of salsa atop cornbread muffin tops. All Benedicts, or Bennys, can also be made vegan, with butternut squash and organic tofu replacing eggs. Wash down your brunch with beer or wine, all from breweries and vineyards in British Columbia.