Introducing: La Carnita’s third taqueria, housed in a King West heritage building
Name: La Carnita
Neighbourhood: King West
Contact: 106 John St., 647-348-1066, lacarnita.com, @la_carnita
Owners: Andrew Richmond (Home of the Brave, Sweet Jesus, and the other two La Carnitas)
Chefs: Executive chef Jon Hamilton and chef de cuisine Billy Nguyen
The Food: La Carnita favourites (beef cheek tacos, Mexican street corn and ceviche tostadas), as well as daily specials that are specific to this location. Chef Nguyen’s additions to the menu blend Asian and Mexican flavours. The Hokkaido scallop ceviche, for example, has a hint of lemongrass, while the scorpion chili-spiked wings are marinated in a soya-ginger mix before being cooked in chicken fat for three hours. The Tuesday special of butter chicken mole tacos might not be abuela approved, but so far the lunch crowd sure digs ’em. (This is the first La Carnita location to serve the lunch.) For dessert, pop down the hall for one of Sweet Jesus’s over-the-top soft serve cones.
The Drinks: The same micheladas and margaritas served at the other LC locations, along with new cocktails like the Grape, Money, Money, perfect for Peter Pan Syndrome–suffering Bay Streeters that want a hit of childhood nostalgia (it tastes like sour grape candy, but boozier).
The Space: The red-brick heritage building has been moved from corner to corner over the past few years, but now that it’s fused with a shiny new condo, it’s likely to stay put. Richmond collaborated with Solid Design on the interior: the two-storey, 105-seat taqueria includes little neon details throughout (we love the red glowing eyes affixed to the screen printed, ceiling-dwelling skeleton), and Rcade painted the Mexican-themed murals, which were weathered to look age-appropriate next to the original bare brick walls.
The third (and biggest) La Carnita location is attached to its sister dairy bar, Sweet Jesus.
Hokkaido scallop ceviche: scallops marinated in green tiger’s milk (lemongrass, cilantro, lime, grapefruit, serrano pepper) are tossed with avocado, green apple and pepitas. Served with crispy plantains. $12.
Mexican street corn, topped with crema, añejo cheese and an ancho-arbol chili powder. $8.50 for two ears.
Friday’s special is a snapper taco. The wild, B.C.–caught fish is battered in corn meal and topped with tamarind-balsamic sauce, chipotle mayo and tomatillo salsa. $5.50.
Thursday’s special is a duck taco, served with an Ontario fruit salsa (peach, grilled apple, grilled fennel) and charred radicchio. A few zigs of orange arbol sauce supply the heat. $5.75.
These wings are cooked in chicken fat for three hours before being flash-fried and tossed in a scorpion chili–spiked sauce. True heat-loving masochists can ask for extra sauce on the side. $14.
#PartyMom: this hash-tagged cocktail’s a mix of Appleton rum, Cointreau, lime juice, simple syrup, house-made agua fresca and mint. $12.
Grape, Money, Money: Dillon’s vodka, red grape syrup, fresh-squeezed pineapple juice. $12.