I sit in my brother’s old bedroom in my parents’ house trying to make sense of the last five years in Toronto. Naturally, I turn to the internet. For “research.” I search for songs that would capture the city where I became an adult. Although I have never lived downtown, preferring the comfort of the Annex, the crowded high-rises of St Jamestown or the family-friendly Beaches, Great Lake Swimmers’ Concrete Heart struck me in the gut. Toronto is the city I fell in love with when I come back from a year in Managua, one of the most challenging in my life to date, and four years in Waterloo, the suburb that’s trying so hard to be a city. It’s the city where I fell out of love, first with the charming streetcars, and then with one boyfriend after another. Toronto is a patient city. Its hidden treasures, bike trails and hiking paths, accessible from Gordon Lightfoot’s Yonge Street, forgive long absences. It accepts that I have spent too much time in Robarts but not enough time on my thesis. Sometimes. Suddenly a taxi almost doors me. On my bike, Toronto wins me over and I call it home.
I have now had the crowning moment of my taco tour experience. On Sunday a friend came to Toronto and suggested that we go to one of my favourite taco places. Since the favourite taco places are in no way close to where we were going, I suggested a new place, La Burrita. (Sidebar: Some might caution against this, but those might be the same people who think you shouldn’t cook new dishes for guests. I think that’s ridiculous. How else would you cook through an entire cookbook.) It was unbelievably amazing. Given the friend’s dietary needs, and my own need to eat corn tortillas when eating a taco, I wanted to make sure they used them. They looked at me as if I were offending them with the question, and I felt vastly relieved.
The atmosphere was fairly good also. It’s not a place to stay for long, but long enough to eat, chat, and move on. If you were so inclined, I’m sure take-out and eating in the park across the street would be a great option. We had carnitas tacos, which were absolutely amazing, tacos al pastor, which were less amazing, and I tried a lengua taco (beef tongue), also delicious. The salsas were quite good as well. I would go back there just to eat more carnitas tacos. They had a 2 for 5 dollars special, which is about half the regular price of tacos in Toronto, and the tacos not on this special were 2.90. They also took credit and debit cards. And it’s right outside of the subway. The only downside is that the bathroom was not that clean. But, I ask, how could it be the best Mexican taco place in Toronto if the bathroom weren’t in a basement with a hidden light switch?
Overall, La Burrita wins for ease of access (ie not by street car), the salsas at Asadas were amazing, and La Carnita wins for hipster tacos. Which are not the same thing I am looking for in a taquería.
In the past few weeks I have been in a whirwind of getting ready to move: making a list of all my belongings so that when I move I only move my stuff, not anything that belongs to my roommates, and also so that I don’t leave anything behind (that was yesterday), acquiring odds and ends from craigslist and dollarama using zipcar and my bike (that was last week), and getting a visa and a place to live in my future home (that was a couple of weeks ago already).
With all this activity, my taco tour has suffered and I am afraid I must leave this project unfinished. Although… I just might go on a taco crawl in a few weeks to the final few places, it depends on how many tacos I can squeeze in between final visits to the island, high park and various museums.
That being said, the international arm of my taco tour has not suffered. In the midst of becoming a NAFTA professional, finding an apartment and visiting some family friends, my mom and I made a stop at the only taquería in Bluffton. Tu pueblo is not the best taquería I have ever been to, but it was also not trying to be a hipster taquería. My main complaint is that its tacos al pastor were just steak tacos with pastor sauce, and not pork tacos with pineapple. That being said, many many many taco places do not do tacos al pastor well. Even places in Mexico City. On the plus side, it has a huge picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe at the entrance, they have really good happy hour specials (I have not yet taken advantage of these specials since I was at an interview on my first visit, and tired after a long day of driving on the second), the tortillas are good, and the servers are very friendly. The bathrooms are also clean and most importantly not in some humid low-ceilinged god-forsaken basement (I’m looking at you, all of Toronto’s restaurants).
Next up: the search to find my spiritual homeland (the coffee shop with just the right level of pretentiousness) in Ohio.