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Naco Gallery Cafe

Posted by Emily Thomas / Posted on May 22, 2009

NacoNaco Café and Gallery is a place where babies meet. Well, it's a place where people from the neighbourhood meet, but the Naco neighbourhood is full of babies. At some point when I wasn't looking, Brockton Village transformed from a stretch of Dundas I avoided at night into a community of artists and young families (as places one avoids at night tend to do).

NacoAlyssa and I went to check out this new, happening, Mexican-food-serving-café and gallery last week. As we got close, Alyssa realized Naco was less than a block from where her friend, Marina, lives with her family (which includes one of the cutest babies I've ever "met"). She called Marina up to join us and we got to experience Naco with a regular - well, two regulars if you count the baby (Paloma!).Naco cafe galleryMy first impression of Naco was that it was a comfortable, good-looking place. The café is purple from top to bottom with bar seating and one large (and purple) table. Beyond the café area, Naco stretches back through a narrow doorway into two additional rooms of paintings, photos and books, including a space to view slides. At the very back, the establishment spills out into a fantastic backyard patio, the look of which makes you ache for summer and beer. Incidentally, they're currently vying for a patio liquor license (for which they're accepting donations - go team!).NacoExperiencing Naco with (or as) a regular felt important because the place is full of them. Everyone seems to know each other. In the few minutes it took for food and coffee to arrive at our table, tons of Marina's friends came inside to grab a coffee or say hi (about half of these friends were Paloma's... they were babies... one little boy even shook Paloma's hand, but I'm not sure if this signifies that they're already good friends, or just meeting each other for the first time). One of those friends was Julian Calleros, owner of Naco. He came over to hold Paloma and tell us about Naco, in good spirits and obviously happy to finally have it open. He tells us about the desserts (courtesy of Wanda's Pie in the Sky and HungerWorks), the homemade hot sauce (crafted by Julian himself) and the Mexican cuisine (made on the spot, often with fresh, seasonal ingredients).NacoSpeaking of hot sauce and Mexican cuisine, I ordered a chicken tostada ($5), which I loaded with hot sauce. Alyssa eyed the whole thing skeptically. "I think I prefer soft," she claimed, and I encouraged her to go with her gut. She came back with two ham and cheese quesadillas and black bean soup ($7.50 in total). The soup was a hit all 'round the table. Marina had tried it before and vouched for it immediately. Alyssa urged me to try a bit, specifying (and ensuring) that I got a spoonful that included cheese.NacoMy tostada was deceivingly filling. It looked tiny but was stacked up high, an elaborate thing more layered than I expected with shredded chicken and hunks of avocado. I enjoyed every bite of that textured, tasty combo. Once Alyssa was happy and full, she revealed that the real reason she didn't want any of my tostada was that she doesn't like avocado, at least not any more. She recently had a bad experience at a Mexican restaurant - what a shame. Lucky little Paloma, who I'm sure has had very few bad experiences (although she was teething that day and I imagine that's pretty rough) was at that moment munching on some avocado provided by Julian and his staff. Naco is a place where babies are happy. But Alyssa and I, we were pretty happy ourselves. We split a piece of orange cheesecake by Hunger Works ($4) and it was perfect: rich and creamy with hunks of citrus and a shortbread crust. Downed with a couple of Americanos ($2 each), we're satisfied.NacoMarina and Paloma pack up to go (that avocado was nice but it's time for some real dinner) and Alyssa and I follow. On our way out, Julian gives us some postcards advertising the next art opening and reception scheduled at Naco. It strikes me how well the place would suit an evening event, something to do with the purple walls. Our final words with Julian reveal (in celebratory tones) that Naco has recently become licensed (so far only on the inside... tricky process). Julian and Marina are happy to tell us, and we're happy to hear it. Naco is a place where everyone is happy.NacoNacoNacoNacoNacoNacoNacoNaco

Photos by Alyssa Bistonath



Carlos / May 22, 2009 at 09:39 am
Nice photos! makes me want to go again!
I want to go at night, must be nice as a bar too
Travelgab / May 22, 2009 at 10:12 am
I am thrilled to check this out. ¡Me encanta la cultura mexicana! Heads up to those trying to find this place: I didn't know where Brockton Village was and clicked on the map for guidance. I believe Google is defaulting to the wrong address on Dundas St. because it is pointing to this cafe as being in Mississauga. Another map tells me it's at actually in the Dundas/Landsdowne area. I think this is a Google issue and not BlogTo. Try for an accurate map.
Tim / May 22, 2009 at 07:45 pm
We fixed the map issue!
Andreas Duess / May 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm
Great review, but I have to say that I did find the opening part of this post just a little bit - hell, no, actually not a little bit, a whole lot of patronizing.

Brockton has been a family neighbourhood for generations. Portuguese families for sure, so not as trendy as the hipsters who are buying up the cheap-ish houses, but families nonetheless. To make it sound like a slum is a just a little bit distasteful.
JRaine / May 24, 2009 at 07:53 pm
I was there just last Thursday. Excellent place for drinks and nibblys with friends.
I didn't see that Julian was selling his hot sauce... well know I gotta go back. ;)
Stephan Jokisch / May 24, 2009 at 08:40 pm
Excellent little place to chill out. Julian makes you feel right at home. More people should check out our neighbourhood, a lot has changed. Check out all the new places:

Multiple Organics -
Beadle -
She Takes the Cake
HenHouse Cafe
Zoots Cafe

To name a few.

Lubo / May 27, 2009 at 12:06 am
We should all be happy for Julien. Naco is putting the DuWest hood on the map.
Fung Lee / May 27, 2009 at 09:52 am
Some good friends from the other side of the bridge (i.e. Roncesvalles) chanced upon NACO recently and declared (what I have long known already) that our neighbourhood is cool. NACO is cooling up the neighbourhood!!

Also - coming from a hot chocolate snob - Julian makes the BEST hot chocolate in the city. REAL chocolate and a bit of a spicy kick. Yum. Julian is a sweetie and he runs his cafe with a lot of heart.
White Guy / August 1, 2009 at 04:18 pm
Andreas : Of course its patronizing, but you have to understand that any neighbourhood without a white majority is considered "a place you don't go at night" by white people. It's a bit of a narrow outlook.
White Guy / August 1, 2009 at 04:22 pm
By white, I really mean anglo/germanic/french/nordic/etc. The pasty skinned folk.
White Guy / August 1, 2009 at 04:24 pm
Andreas, don't be surprised. A lot of white folk look at any neighbourhood lacking a white majority as a place you don't want to be at night.

By white, I really mean anglo/french/german/nordic/etc.
Amanda / August 20, 2009 at 06:50 pm

just to update the link..
grey replying to a comment from White Guy / June 13, 2010 at 04:44 pm
Ummm.... I'm white by your definition (polish) and I have never felt that way. And none of my white friends are creeped out by multi-culturalism in the evening. What white folk have you been talking to?
Nacy Strunge / July 3, 2011 at 11:21 pm
"Also - coming from a hot chocolate snob - Julian makes the BEST hot chocolate in the city."

The hot chocolate at this place is horrible. absolutely horrible.
Mort replying to a comment from Andreas Duess / August 9, 2011 at 02:16 am
I agree, the neighbourhood is no slum, it is a neighbourhood and has its traits (like we all do) ever since a certain sports bar (that happened to be attracting a non friendly/family friendly/sometimes intimidating clientele) left it has become an inviting place for all. I love Naco because it is open to everyone of every type as long as they are respectful of what it is to live in a city and the people who choose to live here. Thanks to Naco and thanks to everyone who enjoys the Dundas St. West environment. I like to see people succeed.

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