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Restaurants

El Sol

Posted by Tim / Reviewed on December 6, 2008 / review policy

El Sol Toronto

I've been to El Sol twice - for the first and the last time. Walking in on a Wednesday night around 8pm, we find the restaurant almost empty. With bad lighting and two other couples scattered among the myriad of tables, we find our dining destination almost depressing and briefly flirt with the idea of going elsewhere. But, we've heard good things about El Sol - and there are plenty of stickers on its front windows testifying to its greatness, so we order some drinks and start flipping through the menu.

El Sol Restaurant

If you read reviews about El Sol, the one consistent criticism is the slow service. But since the place is basically empty, we don't have a problem. The booze thankfully arrives in a hurry. I keep it simple with a cold Sol but across the table my dinner date opts for something a bit more adventurous. Made with a Corona, Clamato, Tabasco and bar mix, the Chabela Baja is a frilly concoction that might best be described as a not-quite refreshing bloody caesar with beer. There are sweet undertones (too much bar mix) and the early verdict is it's not something he would order again.

It's a good thing we have drinks though because we're less than overwhelmed with the menu. The ambiance of El Sol is cheap and cheerful (except not that cheerful) but the menu doesn't line up. Prices here are in the same league as Milagro with most entrees hovering around the $20 mark. For the same amount of money we could be having an amazing dinner down on Queen at Tomi Kro. Or, um, Milagro.

El Sol Danforth

Anyway, we press on and decide to split an order of guacamole. At $9.95 it's on the small side but tastes good enough. It's chunkier than most places and seasoned well with spots of colour from some diced red peppers. To add to our tortilla haul, our waiter also brings some complimentary salsa and chips which are excellent.

Pozole

For mains, I order the pozole (one of the cheaper options at $14.95). It's listed as a house specialty and is described as prehispanic soup made with corn grain, served with chips. What I get is a huge serving of what is essentially a twist on beef soup. There are chunks of bland maiz (not corn), cilantro, radish and shreds of spiced-up beef. That's pretty much it. I end up having a stomach ache for the next two days. Oh, what I'd have given for a simple bowl of $6 pho.

El Sol

My compadre across the table didn't have much better luck. He's still not sure if he was served the right dish. What he thought he ordered was Tacos Nortenas which the menu described as two corn tortillas filled with choice of meat or veggie but what he got was an overflowing plate of chicken, onions, tomato, lettuce, rice and refried bean piled on top of flat corn tortillas. He generously described it as a wholesome dish that ate like a warm salad.

El Sol Mexican

Warm salad of not, if was enough to feed two, if not three people. And given that I ate for 20 minutes and still barely made a dent in my soup I'd say El Sol's problem (well, one of them anyway) is that they serve too much food. Yeah, I never thought I'd actually say that about a place but El Sol would do itself and its customers a favour by lowering prices and portion sizes to make eating there a bit more affordable. It's a casual place, and like one of my faves Tacos El Asador in Koreatown - you should be able to go in there and get some good Mexican grub for under $10.

El Sol Danforth Toronto

Discussion

16 Comments

Maria / December 6, 2008 at 04:57 pm
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The pozole should have "hominy", and it should be made with pork, or chicken. The broth is coloured/flavoured with red chilies, not tomato. I can't see well in the picture if what they gave you was hominy or just regular corn, that would be TOTALLY wrong. Also, you're supposed to season it with lettuce, radish, chopped onion, and dry chili peppers, and, of course, lots of lime juice. That's supposed to be done in table, not sure if they gave it to you like that or you seasoned it yourself, but that's how it should be.
Elle Driver / December 6, 2008 at 05:32 pm
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My boyfriend used to rave about this place - although the last time he visited was YEARS ago. His friend - who was born and raised in Mexico - told him that the most authentic Mexican food he's ever had in Toronto was El Trompo in Kensington.
Tim replying to a comment from Maria / December 6, 2008 at 06:43 pm
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It definitely wasn't corn. I thought it was maiz, but now that you mention it, it might have been hominy. Either way, the hominy/maiz was soooo bland. They didn't give me anything to garnish or spice the soup itself, but it already came with a lot of heat and the radish and onions.
Christopher King / December 6, 2008 at 07:12 pm
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I went here one night with my sister and her hubby.
We had an excellent time, despite there being almost no one there, which is made more evident if you don't sit in the front (the place is HUGE).
I didn't experience any of the problems listed in the article above, but mind you, I probably wouldn't have noticed in any case.
The Mexican experience to me was perfect, and didn't come with the added bonus of stomach and intestinal viruses that I came down with the last time I visited that country.
Me / December 8, 2008 at 09:10 am
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Went once, that was enough. Gristle masquerading as steak, grease masquerading as sauce and total indifference masquerading as service. Give me Tacos El Asador any day.
Charlie / December 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm
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I actually love this place alot. Great Food & nicee people....Tim, you take some really good photos. What camera do you use,Im thinking of getting an SLR for christmas for family shots.

All your reviews are pretty insightful, did you let El Sol know you were gonna review them or do you just go in and take photos without them knowing?

Keep up the god work!
Tim replying to a comment from Charlie / December 11, 2008 at 02:26 pm
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I use a Canon 30D with a variety of lenses. But I actually didn't think these photos turned out very well. The lighting conditions were pretty tough.
Jo / January 22, 2009 at 12:33 am
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No snaps from me. I hated it. My frilly, fruity drink tasted like super sweet Kool-Aid! The guacamole was good but not enough to be shared by 4 people. I can't even remembered what the rest of the food was like because I asked for mild and got spicy so I did not eat it. Will not be re-visiting this place.
Nacho-Man / December 2, 2010 at 02:48 pm
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Tim, you sound like a bit of dick. bye. wait, just read your comments, make that a HUGE dick.
steve / March 20, 2011 at 08:18 pm
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My wife and i ate there but found it very overpriced. It is just rice and beans with a few strips of meat. We will not be back.
jdub / December 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm
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I've been to this place a number of times as a resident of the neighbourhood. While the service is on the slow side, I chalk it up to the fact that they prepare each dish pretty much from scratch. Everything I've had has been delicious and everyone we've taken there has loved it. We did learn early on that the trick is to order everything you intend to eat throughout the meal upon arrival. Helps cut down the wait time. Best restaurant-made guacamole in the city
Stephanie / January 7, 2012 at 01:08 pm
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El Sol is a great Mexican restaurant. The food here is extremely authentic, and I agree the the guac is the best in the city (and their homemade tortilla chips are to die for). They also provide a very unique atmosphere to eat in... with artisan masks on the walls from floor to ceiling. I usually order the Tacos Albinil (aka bean burrito) and it never disappoints (neither does the delicious rice and salad that it comes with). Downside: the service sucks. The only way around that is to arrive early... but even then it can be slow!
eas side og / January 20, 2012 at 07:36 pm
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this place should be called el slow
Kevin T / April 30, 2012 at 09:30 am
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This place is overrated ... I have tried it 2 more times after a bad experience. because my wife and love Mexican food..and people always rave about it. so I keep giving it another chance.
-service is crap we kept having to go up get are own forks and extra plates because are waiter was sleeping in the corner "true story"
-the food taste like crap honestly I could do better myself.
and I'm by no means a good cook.
-I think my 2 year old is going to have nightmares from the décor.

see ya later El Sol thanks for the memories

fny / November 8, 2012 at 05:19 pm
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Looks like the person who wrote this doesn't know a lot about Mexican food. As a Mexican, this review was useless to me.
michelle / October 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm
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My husband and I both loved the food but agreed that the service is soooo slow. Still worth it if you're not in a rush and are happy to sit around for a while!

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