“People in this city love burritos,” says Richard Henry, owner of Riverside’s new Toucan Taco Bar. Henry, the owner of two other bird-themed east-end restaurants (Le Canard Mort and Le Rossignol, currently shacking up together), decided to jump on board the city’s current romance with Mexican food and add a third bird to his flock. But why a toucan? Apparently “Budgie Burrito” just didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Henry, who used to make monthly work-related trips to Mexico, has opted for a colour scheme of green and yellow, with a fire-engine-red accent wall by the kitchen. Illustrations by a Mexican artist of tropical birds dot the walls (Henry bought them years ago as part of a fundraiser and thought they were a great match for the space). Other details have been plucked from around the city: the chairs are from the former Barrio Lounge; the lighting is from Stylegarage; a set of coat hooks was found at the One of a Kind Show. The main room seats fewer than 20, but hidden in the back is a patio that can fit up to 30 margarita swillers come summer.
The menu focuses on tacos, enchiladas and burritos. To date, the pulled pork and blackened catfish tacos have proven most popular. The pulled pork is slow-cooked overnight before being roasted, pulled and braised. Placed in a house-made taco, it’s paired with ancho chilies and cactus from California ($4.50). Meanwhile, the blackened catfish is spiced with habaneros and comes with mole and a salsa of ripe and green mangos ($5.50). Diners can up the heat quotient with the addition of either the medium or the hot sauce (after being completely ignored, the mild was removed from the menu). The medium salsa gets its heat from jalapeños, while the hot is done with habaneros; both are mixed with tomatoes and tomatillos and roasted in the oven. Meanwhile, a shelf of tequilas holds nothing listed by the LCBO; suggestions for good sipping tequilas include Tequila Rojo Verde and Tequila El Mayor’s barrel-aged Añejo. And once the weather gets a bit warmer, the “beergarita” (a Corona mixed into a margarita, $10) is poised, Henry tells us, to be the drink of choice for the back patio.
Toucan Taco Bar, 686 Queen St. E., 416-461-9663