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Restaurants

Grand Electric

Posted by Jason Finestone / Reviewed on December 20, 2011 / review policy

Grand ElectricGrand Electric has Torontonians flocking to Parkdale to sample the powerful Mexican flavours, absorb the pulsating rhythms and imbibe in brown-hued liquor. The brainchild of former Black Hoof'ians, Chef de Cuisine, Colin Tooke and front-of-house Manager, Ian McGrenaghan, scores of committed customers will wait for 1-3 hours to pack the place from 6pm 'til late, Wednesday to Monday. As their answering machine will tell you, "We don't take reservations and we're closed on Tuesdays so we can get drunk". Unpretentious, yet accommodating in their personal approach, get your name on Ian's list and go for a brew down the street--it's well worth the wait.

Grand ElectricStationed at the long slate-top bar, I'm staring at the lengthy and collection of Bourbon, seldom matched in the city. Hand-selected by the scotch-converted palate of McGrenaghan, he promised me he'd change my perspective on the burly liquor from the South on a night when I wasn't driving. There's also some interesting Rye on the list if that's more your thing. And If you don't dig these types of distilled beverages, try a Michelada (the ceasar of beers) made with Tabasco, lime juice, salt, pepper and Maggi. Or sip on Horchada, an icy rum cocktail made from arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding).

Grand ElectircThree intriguing condiment bottles adorned the bar-top: a housemade, tangy, cool salsa verde made from green tomatillos, a crimson Mexican hot sauce called Valentina and a beautiful, bright orange bottle of hot sauce that came straight from scotch bonnet heaven. My friend commented on the selection, saying, "it took all of my willpower not to put those in my purse and take them home."

As far as vibe goes, Grand Electric lives up to its name with a loud room of engaged diners who chat over the sound of some pretty decent hip hop. Lost Boyz, anyone? While the ambiance and selection of sauces is always important, I was there for the food — and the food, my friends, was really good.

Grand ElectricWe started with a satisfying selection of tacos ($3.50/3 for $10). Pork Belly al Pastor was brightened up by the sweet hit of pineapple, Baja Fish, made with light pieces of fried tilapia, and Spicy Arbol Chicken was salty and rich in smoky arbol chili flavour with an acidic bite from encurtida onions. Finally, the Beef Cheek was saucy and tender, akin to a pulled brisket but significantly more rich. Topped with coarse cut cilantro and a zesty squeeze of lime, the tacos were ideal for testing out the tantalizing variety of sauces.

Next course was a Tuna Ceviche (lead photo), untraditional in my experience but clean in appearance and taste ($7.50). You could pick out each individual ingredient — well-marinated chunks of supple tuna, mounted on a fried tortilla. Fresh rounds of green chili added heat, julienned radish, while crispy fried shallots and sparkling citrus and yuzu mayo rounded out this refreshing dish.

Grand ElectricThe main attraction was the day's special — Menudo ($12). Similar to their standard Pozole Rojo, a must try according to Tooke, Menudo is a type of hearty soup/stew. The dark burgundy broth made from tripe and pork bones, onion, guajillo and arbol chilies acts as the ideal stewing agent for spoonfuls of sweet beef tripe, salty chorizo sausage, and roast pig skin. With fresh avocado to garnish, a squeeze of lime, and (why not a little more spice?) a healthy dollop of handmade pickled chili condiment, I mopped up every last drop in the bowl with the side of veal marrow-topped bread.

Too full for dessert, I'm nevertheless content. Life is wonderful, and one is sure to be well fed when Grand Electric is making the menu.

Grand Electric

Discussion

52 Comments

Adam / December 20, 2011 at 10:20 am
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Loved it. Great casual dining. Will definitely be back!
Chris / December 20, 2011 at 10:31 am
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I read in the Star that they modeled this place after Big Star in Chicago - apparently the chef actually worked there after he left the Hoof. I've been to Big Star - the food was good and the vibe was fun, so if this is similar, I'm all over it!
Roberto / December 20, 2011 at 10:48 am
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I cant wait to try this place, making plans to give a shot on Thursday with friends....Ian was one of the main reasons, aside from great vibe yummy food, why my gf and i frequented the hoof, he is an incredible host and knows his way around the bar.
i dont think i've been excited as i am now to throw back some tacos and beers, perfect harmony. congrats Ian!
Bobby replying to a comment from Chris / December 20, 2011 at 11:08 am
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Yeah, It's a similar vibe to Big Star, It's great to have a place like this in T-Dot. The pozole is awesome, and I love the tuna ceviche. The tacos are good, beef cheek is the standout for me, the fish taco needs some work, the tortillas need to be softer, not sure what brand they are using, but overall I love this spot. I'm excited for the 50 seat patio in summer. If you don't want to wait, just go at 6pm and you'll be fine.
Bryan / December 21, 2011 at 03:13 am
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The question that came to mind, other than how fast I can get there to eat, is this: with Grant, Colin and Ian gone from the Hoof, who is left? Can Jen keep it going?
Roberto / December 22, 2011 at 11:33 am
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so I tried this place yesterday and it was overall amazing. great vibe, fantastic service (thanks Ian), and wicked tacos. Im definitely paying the price now for all the bourbon last night tho. i'll def. be back
unnonymous / January 11, 2012 at 08:23 pm
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Looking forward to trying it out!!!
Emma / January 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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For Bryan - Brandon Olsen is in the Hoof kitchen now (and for the last little while), and he is awesome.
Lindsay / January 25, 2012 at 11:31 am
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Is there still super long waits at this place? How about on a Wednesday evening?
mandy / February 4, 2012 at 01:56 pm
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my boyfriend and i went on a thursday night around 8pm. it was a two hour wait which we pretty much expected. we had some delicious cocktails at the gladstone while we waited for them to call. we were not in any kind of hurry. it was well worth the wait.

probably less of a wait if you go earlier on a wednesday. we can't wait to go back.
cally / February 10, 2012 at 02:58 pm
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and now they serve Flying Monkey's craft beer!
HARdlee / April 15, 2012 at 06:41 am
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Grand Electric is a joke, mix of nice and total cow staff, where it really loses the plot is the food, not the overly dark environment or way too loud music.

The food that is totally oversold in the quality department, I'm quite certain I've had better prepared dishes at chain restaurants in the past few years and with less sugar added to them. Further, this noise about how great the guacamole is the worst form of lying gossip ever.
Rosina / April 17, 2012 at 09:10 pm
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Amazing food, fab place. But with severs hovering and pushing us out the door to accomodate 2 hour wait, hardly felt like a relaxing dining experience. Go to wolf down amazing food, but not to enjoy your dining experience... Waitress literally havered over us before we had finished our meal and wine...
Rosina / April 17, 2012 at 09:12 pm
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Amazing food and space; but servers literally rushed us out the door - hovered as we ate and brought bill before we finished our meal and drinks! Go to wolf down amazing good, not for a pleasant dining experience...
Jose / May 5, 2012 at 09:40 pm
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This place is amazing. Best in the city. My only complaint is that you have to be on a senior's schedule to waiting 5hrs for a table. I've literally been told at 6pm that there is a 3hr wait. Which is cool if you live in the area but it really discourages people from ever coming back.
cindy / May 15, 2012 at 07:17 pm
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Finally waited to eat here.. It was perfect. Loved every aspect of the meal, even dessert was amazing, staff was friendly and the vibe was great.. Can't wait to go back!!!
Sarah replying to a comment from HARdlee / May 22, 2012 at 07:58 pm
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Hardlee, you're either an 80-year-old chain smoker that has absolutely no taste buds left, or you're just an asshole that doesn't know anything about good food. The food at Grand Electric is so flavourful and the service was amazing. The server thanked us for waiting 3 hours for our table and was extremely helpful the entire night. No one was rushing us at all and they still had a huge line of people waiting to get in. I can't wait to go back and enjoy some extremely tasty food!
Darien / May 30, 2012 at 05:06 pm
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@Sarah (May 22/12): You waited 3 hours for crappy food? 3 hours? You may accuse Hardlee of being an "80 year-old chain smoker that has absolutely no taste buds left" or "an asshole that doesn't know anything about good food", but you, my dear, are a bandwagon jumping moron.
gr1 replying to a comment from Darien / June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am
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it's fucking food, eat it or shut up.
N00b / June 6, 2012 at 11:00 am
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Planning to go there tomorrow (Thurs) @ 8 pm with friends and have two questions.

1. How long is the wait going to be (now with patio)?

2. Do they expect you to physically wait in line or can you go elsewhere for a drink and wait for the call?
A Texan / June 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm
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I was very disappointed in the food. I am from Houston Texas and while this does not make me an expert on Mexican food I like to think that it does... pretentious yes, but so is this place. The food was down right awful I ordered the fish tacos which came out fried (wasent asked if i would like it grilled, which i thought they would be) and the ceviche. Both of the dishes were covered in cream sauces... wtf seriously? I know we are in Canada, but its supposed to be Mexican food, putting cream on everything immediately ruined it for me. With all that said my our waiter was very nice and the service was quick, also I ordered a Margarita which was ok. If your looking for a place to get some drinks I would say maybe try it out, however the food is horrible and while i enjoyed the wu-tang clan music it was too damn loud and also followed up by kid cudi... Maybe it was the kid cudi music that made my food taste so bad? Would not recommend this place for food and will not be going back.
Adam Daniel / August 13, 2012 at 09:28 pm
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I am very disappointed, I just grabbed a cab from downtown to eat here and it was shut when I arrived (on a Monday at 7pm).

I was looking forward to it, I guess the place is shut for some reason, my fault I should have called in advance.
SO BAD / August 18, 2012 at 04:20 pm
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This place is totally overrated. The tacos are over-sauced. The waiters are lame. The music was the only saving grace, but it was too loud. The wait sucks, but it is what it is. Overall totally pretentious. If they were half as good as they thought they were, it would have been nice. I don't understand why so many people love it...
Ricardo / August 26, 2012 at 10:31 am
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I went to Grand Electric for the first time yesterday and I must say I was quite disappointed. For starters their policy of not seating you until all of your party is there is nonsensical bordering on offensive. One of the members of my party was told that "this is how we do things here" in response to his frustration to the policy and to the offer of being placed at a communal table instead. The confrontational nature of the bald/bearded fellow with lots of ink (looked so out of place on Queen West) was also unnecessary and almost caused us to leave. Once the food arrived the service was subpar as some of the staff simply appeared annoyed or indifferent to what they were doing. I'll take playa cabana, better food and better service.
Sara / September 21, 2012 at 10:59 am
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Whoa! it seems like this place is really going down hill.
That's Unfortunate, I went a couple times over the summer and it was such a blast! I am sadden to see such reviews about the staff. We had an amazing server named Shay who really took care of us. Maybe people shouldn't be so uptight? After all its cheap tacos and hip hop. This isn't King st people. Its Parkdale.
Roll with it.
john / October 27, 2012 at 08:54 am
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What's happening to the dining scene in Toronto? This whole "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" philosophy is getting a bit much. I tried eating at Grand Electric the other night, was told to go early because it gets busy and there is often a big line. I arrived a half-hour before they opened and was one of the first in what turned out to be a long line. I waited until 6 (they open exactly at 6, not a second before -union rules I guess) only to find out they wouldn't let me in until the person I was dining with arrived. I then waiting another half-hour outside in the pouring rain staring at the empty tables inside until my party arrived. No option to go inside and sit at the empty bar to have drink and wait. When we finally got in they would only let us sit at one of the communal tables. I asked if it would be possible to be changed to a table for two when one opened up and they said no. I said I presume they don't double up on the communal tables until they fill up the restaurant and they said no, they usually fill up the communal tables first. I spoke to someone who was either an owner or manager and asked why they had such a rigid policy and he explained "this is how we do things here". He said "it sounds like you're looking for restaurant, we're not a restaurant, we're a taco bar". He's right, we were looking for a restaurant, so we left and went to one.
jj / November 8, 2012 at 04:50 pm
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over priced. snobby service. bad location. the only thing that is worth while there is the fish tacos.
Peter / November 18, 2012 at 09:44 am
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Two hour wait and atrocious service for average food.

A few articles in Toronto's go-to literature has put this place on the map but something doesn't add up. We put our names on the list for a table of four and were told to return in an hour - they would not take our phone number. When we returned in an hour, we were told 15 minutes - which turned into another hour. We finally divided into two 2's and got seated. We then joined up when the elusive table for 4 became free.

After an hour and a half, before we were done, the bill showed up without us asking for it. On attempting to order more, our server said she'd have to ask her boss. The answer was 'No', pay the bill and then "We have people waiting, it's time for you to leave". All of a sudden, potential patrons became more important than actual patrons. This 'Boss' character has no clue about customer service. I've never written a restaurant review before, but my experience with this joke was enough motivation to get started.

The food was decent - the fish taco was as good as most people say. Meanwhile, the pig tail reminded me of throw up heading in the other direction (throw down?).

The cocktails were not good, I had the special and it tasted like bog water. My friend had the Caesar and chose to not even finish it.

All in all, we spent more time waiting to get in than we were allowed to stay. Will never be there again. I bet this place doesn't last. The hype can only mask horrible service and average food for so long.
Cheryl / January 2, 2013 at 01:56 pm
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These reviews are a joke. I live in the neighbourhood, and have eaten here at least a dozen times. It has best tacos I have had in Toronto, and is VERY similar to MANY taco/bourbon bars in NYC. The staff are awesome. Your haven't had a bourbon sour or aMexican beer until you've had one from Chris. I'm assuming that most of the haters on this blog are "Go Training" in from the 905 and were disappointed to find out that Grand Electric doesnt serve fajitas and Molson Canadian. if you genuiniely hated GE, then skip the line and head to Milestones or Jack Astors. Although hipsters have made this joint slightly pretentious, that was not the intention. This place is hot. It's here for the long hail.
Personal favourite:
Food - Ceviche, Fish taco, Pigs Tail taco, Key Lime vaso
Drink - Michelada
Bean Face / January 11, 2013 at 04:17 pm
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I think the food here is quite good. Great vibe in the summer on the patio. BBQ ribs are nice! Service is a mixed bag, either really good or really bad. Some of the servers have nice legs, which is a bonus especially after 4 bourbon lemonades.

I will never understand the perpetual line-up though. No offense, but the place isn't good enough to warrant line-ups everyday. People will stand in line IN THE RAIN. I see them everyday. The dudes who own this place are laughing to the bank, and good on them. I guess I'm getting old but I don't line up the in rain for tacos, dammit! Hopefully the lines will eventually die down so I can go back again.
GE is bad replying to a comment from Cheryl / February 5, 2013 at 02:06 pm
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This is nothing like taco bars in NYC. New York has way more influence from Mexico and the traditional ways of making tacos. Grand Electric has made poor decisions on their menu that just don't taste good and are not worth the cost.

As for the 905 comment...
You really must not understand the way the city works. If it were not for the "Go Training" population, Toronto would only be full of pretentious people like you. You cannot even begin to compare Toronto to New York if you are going to complain about the Greater Toronto Area. New York is so amazing because it has 4 times the population that we do and it is those people that make it great. I am so sick of people ragging on 905ers as if they are a dumber, less educated, naive population.
... replying to a comment from GE is bad / March 14, 2013 at 11:34 am
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Yeh, we get it, NYC is the best. Ugh.
z / March 19, 2013 at 11:48 am
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When I go out for dinner I wi old expect customer service... this place fails to show any of this! The hostess was a snob... they made us stand out in the cold for over 40 min.. then when we asked if there was a time frame .. we got nothing but attitude.. we left and went to playa cabana... amazing! There are way more restaurants that deserve my hard earned money than this place.. I don't recommend it if you want good service and to be treated as a Customer...
Deb / March 21, 2013 at 11:55 pm
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Having lived in Mexico for years, places like this make me laugh. Completely overrated. True Mexican flavour is hard to find in this city. Its number one because you don't know any better. When I get homesick I pop by Rebozos for a bite.
Tim / June 10, 2013 at 10:01 am
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I was really excited to try this place. I had heard a ton about it. It seemed like an exclusive club to be a part of if you waited the 2 hours to get in.

We finally got in and they don't have the 3 for $10 deal anymore. When we asked about it the waitress seemed annoyed and said that they "never had that but people keep asking about it". Instead the tacos are $3.60 each. That's not a HUGE different, I suppose.

I don't know, they were good, I guess. 2 hour wait for small (nearly) $4 tacos and annoyed service. Maybe people just built this place up way too much and so I was expecting the best thing at a great price and it just didn't deliver.

But it wasn't awful. The tacos were tasty, and it was a fun experience being able to finally get in there.
Sara / June 10, 2013 at 05:25 pm
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I heard this place was good but it seems kind of expensive for a really small meal. And not worth the line up! People seriously LINE UP for 2 hours? I don't get it. There are other taco places in the city! Plus the service doesn't sound very nice. I think I will pass on this one and stick to the tons of taco places in Kensington market.
Dee / July 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm
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Finally got to try this place out after many failed attempts. First thing that comes when trying their first taco (baja fish), way TOO small and over hyped.

Went for lunch. Got seated the minute we came through the door. Service was good, not horrible. But 2/3 servers could look a little more pleasant while working there.

All and all, place would alright. Glad I got it off my bucketlist. Wouldn't be the first place I would go to for tacos though, though they have a decent selection of whiskey to choose from.
avet replying to a comment from Sarah / July 25, 2013 at 11:25 pm
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Sara calling someone asshole because he has different opinion than yours is rude....get back to school dirty girl and ask parents to teach you how to talk to people...twice i was there and got oversalted food..cheers
J Patterson / July 29, 2013 at 06:53 pm
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Why is there no more beef cheek taco on the menu?
jay replying to a comment from Deb / September 24, 2013 at 01:35 pm
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deb looks like she is the only smart one. People really need to stop bigging this place up. Real mexican food is a 100 times better then this.
Grand my ass / October 1, 2013 at 01:50 pm
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AVOID! Awful service, overpriced and they'll tell you to bugger off, the moment you swallow your food. Vile, vacuous servers in need of a slap. Parkdale pretentiousness at its worst. AVOID!
Orange / October 21, 2013 at 10:39 am
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after reading all the good reviews decided to go there. opened the door and there is a very loud blast of very bad taste rap music. the waiter was shouting so we could hear him and I still couldn't hear half of his words. he offered us a "shared table" by the window! We looked at each other confused in what a shared table is. If it was a normal day and I was not starving I would have left but I thought lets try this "amazing" and "outrageous" food as some people describe it in google reviews. I ordered a squid sandwich (9$) and my friend ordered a "crispy" duck sandwich(11$). and I tried to tolerate the really annoying garbage music that does not go with any restaurant environment. my "sandwich" was just a piece of toast with squid on it and so much sauce , like half a bottle of mixed sauces. it was spicy. it didn't taste bad but it worried me that it's going to hurt my stomach. and as this "sandwich" was not a sandwich it did not fill me up at all! the duck sandwich on the other hand was 4 pieces of bread with duck shreds on it. one piece of duck skin was crispy my friend said. the rest was hot sauce which the breads were soaked in it. we ate and we ran away! I don't see what's the hype. I won't go back. luckily I didn't get sick. I was kind of sure I would.
Your Mother / November 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm
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This place is nothing like Big Star in Chicago. That comment actually offends me.
The tacos are good, but the guac, vibe and even space is not comparable.
It's ok.
Greg / November 28, 2013 at 02:42 pm
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Ok so the Bourbon Sours are delish. The caesar, not so much. Stop trying to be so fucking clever GE, chips get soggy and DO NOT work as a casear rimmer.
Jay / January 11, 2014 at 02:28 pm
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It never ceases to amaze me that if someone has an opinion other than that if the masses, they are labeled an asshole. Personally, I think anyone who waits 3-5 hours for a table in a city like Toronto, is an asshole.
Rob / April 18, 2014 at 06:02 pm
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THIS PLACE WAS TERRIBLE the food was fatty and full of grease. The oil is floating on top. The calorie count must be ghastly. terrrrible
TonyFlow / June 4, 2014 at 01:30 pm
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I've been meaning to try the tacos here and I'm glad you're doing good Colin, let me know when all the psychotic diners dissappear so I can simply walk in and not deal with the fame and pretention

Big Ups
TonyFlow / June 4, 2014 at 01:31 pm
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Maybe it should be a taco buffet?
Elba / June 7, 2014 at 11:51 am
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This place is anything but Mexican. Not because they serve "tacos" and Mexican beer we can say its a Mexican restaurant. The tacos are not anything like real tacos and that's the only thing attempting to be Mexican. I was completely dissapointed with this place. Not going again, terrible place, and take it from a Mexican.
OG / June 7, 2014 at 06:21 pm
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The food here is really good, it's just a shame about the hype...after waiting for so long for a table, the servers rush you out as quickly as they possibly can, which really ruins it for me...I guess if you want to feel cool about eating tacos in Parkdale, then go ahead, enjoy.
Darcy Manhattan / June 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm
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trendy shit hole for hipster assholes, pretentious pricks and insecure princesses pretending to be themselves. Great place if you fit into that category!
Better to spend your time and money somewhere else...
Ness T / September 22, 2014 at 02:36 pm
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A definite must eat if you're from or visiting Toronto. If you want a good experience with fish tacos, or authentic tacos in general, Grand Electric is the place to go.
Prices are reasonable, $3.60 per taco. Reasonable price for the size and quality but you'll end up spending more than you expect because you will want more.
The taste of the tacos are unique, like no other taco.
Grand Electric doesn't allow reservations because it is a 'it' spot in Toronto for a reason.
Atmosphere is fun and inviting.
I've been told Grand Electric is one of the best and it definitely did not come as a surprise.

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