Halifax Taco Quest: The Classics

Last month I commenced my Halifax Taco Quest, as 2019 seems to be the year that Halifax finally gets its “taco boom”. We haven’t had much of a craze since the gourmet burger/fro-yo boom, but here we are in 2019 freaking out about tacos and doughnuts.

I started out with a Vegan Taco Quest, where newcomer El Nino kicked some serious butt! Now that I’m back to a more omnivorous inclination, it is time to continue the taco quest! For this round, we critiqued tacos from the 3 major players pre-dating the taco boom: Mexicali Rosa’s, Mexico Lindo, and Cheachie’s. These three have been around the longest and therefore have had to cater somewhat to the Maritime palate.

(I will not be delving into fish tacos just yet, as I think they deserve their own quest. I definitely need to update my list from 2015).

Mexicali Rosa’s

5472 Spring Garden Road

Options: 
Chicken ($16), Steak ($17), or Fish ($16) w/ rice & beans
OR
“Gringos” ($15) (ground beef, chicken or pork – you can mix & match) w/ rice & beans

Tortillas: soft flour, soft corn, hard corn.

Mexicali Rosa’s was my favourite restaurant as a child. I would order beef burritos that burned my face off before cooling down with deep fried ice cream. As a young adult, Mexi’s continued to be a favourite stop for Margarita Mondays and half price nachos.

But to be honest, I went in with pretty low expectations. Despite performing quite well on my Nacho Quest, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mexi’s is stuck in a 90’s approach to Canadianized Mexican cuisine.

The taco menu is pretty confusing, as there seem to be 3 signature tacos that come with beans & rice. You get TWO in your order. You CANNOT mix & match them. You CANNOT buy them individually. These are topped with pickled onions, queso fresca, charred corn and avocado crema. This definitely seems like an upgrade to me! I was expecting a lettuce, tomato & sour cream situation but was pleasantly surprised by the flavours and ingredients dressing the tacos.

Then there are the “Gringos” tacos: these come in 3 varieties, CAN be mixed & matched, and CAN be purchased for $4/taco. They are more of a taco kit-style, with tomato, cabbage, shredded cheese and jalapeno crema. Here you can have your ground beef in a hard shell with a nice juicy mark-up!

Greg ordered a couple hard shell Gringos tacos and said they were “flavourful and colourful”. The rest of us ordered the steak and chicken tacos. We found the steak a little tough, but it was better than the chicken, which was not of the best quality. I’m not sure what happened with the tortillas, because if we were offered soft corn I would gladly have requested soft corn. Alas, through some mistake of ours or the server, we ended up with soft flour tortillas and this was another draw back.

These tacos were pretty tasty but they are WAY overpriced for the quality of the meats and tortillas. I would gladly pay $12 for two tacos with beans & rice. But not $17.

“These were boring: they tasted ok but not memorable and way overpriced” – ReTales

Mexico Lindo

3635 Dutch Village Road

Options: 
Chicken ($4 each)
Beef ($4 each)
Bean ($4 each)

Tortillas: 
Hard corn, soft flour.

Mexico Lindo has long been Fairview’s neighbourhood gem, touting themselves as “the only authentic home-style Mexican cuisine in Halifax”.

Mexico Lindo has always seemed more “Tex Mex” to me than “authentic Mexican”. Tacos are dressed with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream on soft flour (or hard corn) tortillas. I highly doubt you’ll find this preparation in Mexico.

I mean, I realize “authenticity” is a problematic term but – come on!

Anyway…. we weren’t there to pass judgement on authenticity, only deliciousness. But why, oh why, are there no soft corn tortillas?!

The soft tacos were hefty with meat and a great value at $4, while the hard shell tacos were less bang for our buck. There was a big communal bowl of spicy house salsa that we could apply to our tacos at will. It was spicy enough that I broke a sweat!

Other than the note of heat from the salsa, I found these tacos dry and bland. “Great value, but I found the meat very bland,” agreed Mach. They relied entirely on the salsa for flavour and that just wasn’t enough.

Not everybody shared my opinion. Moxey conceded that the tacos were basic, but wrote: “Done very well. Great value & delicious.” ReTales was also a fan: “The salsa was excellent and the sauces on the taco were excellent and well balanced.”

We’ll agree to disagree.

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Cheachie’s Mexican Grill

102 Chain Lake Drive

Options:
3 for $9.95: Steak/Steak Ranchero, Shrimp, Fish, Carnitas, Tinga Chicken, Beef Barbacoa
Single Tacos ($4): Chicken, beef, shrimp, fish

Tortillas: soft corn, soft flour

Cheachie’s is the newest and arguably most “authentic” of the classic Mexican mainstays. It is also the most obscure, albeit with a strong following for both its tacos and its burgers, tucked away in a hidden corner of Bayer’s Lake.

It was the only restaurant that offered us soft corn tortillas, and I was happy to learn they are made in-house. Plus, $9.95 for 3 tacos is a pretty sweet deal.

We were given a basket of house-made bottled sauces: smoky poblano, Miss Piggy (bacon), Jalapeno, Habanero, and Shishito (not spicy). This was a nice touch, as it allowed us to play with the flavours and dress our tacos to our liking.

The tacos were simple: meat in warm corn tortillas with a bit of cilantro and green onion, or lettuce and pico depending on the variety. The mild shredded cheese seemed very Tex Mex and didn’t really add to the overall package.

I heard no complaints about the Carnitas or Steak tacos: “They are basic, but decent” says ReTales, whereas the Beef Barbacoa was definitely too salty.


The Winner –>

Cheachie’s!

Both Mexico Lindo and Cheachie’s are a great deal, but Cheachie’s has the edge on flavour and the tortilla game. I really want to like Mexico Lindo, and I think there’s something to be said for that old school, home-style, Tex-Mex cuisine, but I think I’ll have to try something other than tacos. Personally, I’ll take salty meat over bland, dry meat, but that wasn’t the consensus of the group. Cheachie’s just barely squeaked out the win! So I dunno, folks… who do you think makes the better taco: Mexico Lindo or Cheachie’s? Let me know in the comments!

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