Let’s be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with Montreal’s abundance of European-inspired restaurants. French soups, French fries, baguettes and confit de canard all have a place in our hearts — but when we want something with a little more oomph, we turn to the most obvious and flavourful choice: Mexican. With a chill in the air only getting chillier, here’s a list of where you can get chili-er.
Family-owned Itacate might be the most underrated restaurant in Montreal. It has great reviews online but rarely comes up in conversation when discussing the city’s dining high-points. Simplicity, delicacy, affordability and a little bit of TLC go a long way, and this spot drives these points home harder than anywhere else. A bit out of the way, Itacate might seem like a stretch as winter settles in — but you’re doing yourself a real disservice if you’re into anything spicy. Buck up and head north: Not only will you be pleased, but you’ll be introducing yourself to a whole other world of Mexican cuisine. Our choice is the sopes con pollo — the guacamole here tops any we’ve had before. 67 Beaubien St. E. 514-276-5880.
Sometimes you’re looking for a quick and dirty solution to satisfy a craving. Sure, authentic Mexican food has its charm, but Tex Mex has an undeniable appeal of its own. Taqueira Mex boasts its over-the-top, flamboyantly Americanized angle to Mexican food and, in all-out embracing that niche, it does the grub justice. Our tip is to order the bean and cheese burrito, but substitute guacamole for the cheese — finally, a vegan alternative that tastes better than its original. Shots of tequila flow freely at Taqueria, so it’s also a decent joint to have nachos with the guys. Located right on the Main, there’s always something to do afterwards. 4306 St. Laurent Blvd., 514-982-9462.
El Rey del Taco
Friendly service, knowledgeable staff and inexpensive entrées all make El Rey del Taco a must-try for amateurs and veterans alike. It might be getting a bit brisk to enjoy the terrace, but there’s no harm in getting to know their menu before spring sets in. They have the classics such as tacos and gordita down pat, but also worth checking out are the sandwiches — you might be pleasantly surprised. Located in the Jean Talon market, El Rey is the perfect lunch spot after shopping around for fresh produce and various knick-knacks. We recommend their huarache, which combines the saltiness of meat with the punch of pineapple, deftly killing two birds with one stone. 232 Jean Talon St. E., 514-814-3813.
Casa de Matéo
If you’re looking to impress a ladyfriend with more than just a meal, Casa de Matéo is situated in the heart of Old Montreal, where an after-dinner walk on the canal is sure to improve your chances at closing. As an authentic Mexican cuisine hotspot, we feel that we don’t need to vouch for the food: Matéo regularly receives Consumer Choice Awards and placed as delete number one in Montreal Mirror’s best Mexican restaurants. Order whatever you like, there are no mistakes to be made here; still, you’d be a fool not to try their margaritas, made with fresh-squeezed juices. If you’re coming from out of town, they also have an auberge with twenty-two uniquely decorated rooms ranging from cozy singles to full-out luxury suites. 440 St. Francois Xavier St., 514-286-9589.
Image courtesy of Brian.