Back in April, a steady stream of tunes pulsed from the DJ and raves of yore echoed off the red walls at the Brickworks – minus all the glow sticks and illicit connotations. Thousands of people were lined up (I use this term loosely) in front of three screens upon which the black and white meathead logo was projected. Proximity-induced camaraderie bubbled with talk of art, tacos, and tunes – all while the chaotic mash kept a collective eye on the muted shadows in motion behind the curtian.

Behind the screens at UNO

And then it was time. The screens rolled up and the crowd, hands fisted in the air, roared their approval. Just to put things over the top, I mentally inserted plumes of fire shooting upward, bracketing each of the revealed tables. The rock stars? La Carnita and company. The show? Tacos.

It has only been a year since La Carnita’s debut as a roaming pop-up. But it was made patently clear by the response to their UNO party at The Brickworks that it was time for a permanent location. Luckily, the plans were already in play by the time UNO had taken place. Three months later, they’ve opened their doors to eager fans at College and Bathurst amid a flurry congratulatory tweets. Mine among them. Here’s my sampling from the last two days:

Loved the garlic and lime-heavy guacamole with ancho chili-dusted tortilla chips and queso fresco on top. The drink: Who Shot Ya? A take on a whisky sour, made with bourbon, Jamaica syrup, ginger syrup, and lemon juice. Tart and refreshing, as it should be. Though I thought the ginger was very light.

Avocado mango salad with cilantro, lime dressing, queso fresco, & pepitas. Buttery avocado, sweet mango, crunchy seeds, and potato chip sticks. So. Good. A total re-order for me.

In Cod We Trust with Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple, & cilantro. A classic La Carnita offering I’m always happy to eat. Behind is the Crispy Avocado With Frijoles with beans, lightly breaded and fried avocado, jicama, chipotle, queso fresco, & cilantro.

Tostada De Lengua with cilantro verde, cashew sauce, grilled pineapple, radish, & beet sprouts. The tongue had a really great flavour and texture.

Dessert! On a stick!! A paleta of lime and salted graham crackers. Form-factor is a huge plus. And a nice treat to end off the meal – a little tart, a little creamy with a good ratio of cookie crumb to ice cream.

Pineapple & chili paleta with guajillo and arbol. Nice and light with a hint of fire.

Toronto is clearly in love with tacos. Grand Electric is a ridiculously popular tacqueria with hours-long waits, Playa Cabana is another spot striving for authenticity, and tacos are alive on many a menu. This, all since La Carnita’s first pop-up at the OneMethod offices. I very much like that they’ve kept the art aspect of their venture alive (it’s how they made their early pop-ups legal) – it distinguishes them and makes them a part of more than just the restaurant scene. In an Asian moment, I chuckled when I received #8 of 5000 of the inaugural limited edition print from artist Jonathan Bergeron with my bill. Auspicious.

I think La Carnita’s got a perfect storm of food, social media, and art (so many of my nerdisms!) and I’m avidly following along to see exactly how it all plays out. With a strong offering and large following, they’re poised to do well and are a great addition to Toronto’s eatscape.

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