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Restaurants

Playa Cabana

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on July 25, 2011 / review policy

Playa Cabana TorontoPlaya Cabana sits on a quiet residential stretch of Dupont Street just east of Davenport, and is one of the more recent arrivals to the Mexican restaurant scene in Toronto. Its name translates to "beach cabin", and although there isn't any water in sight, the organic, cottage-y vibe of the place helps Playa Cabana live up to its name.

We were hoping for a seat on their patio, but saddened to find there were none available. It was surprisingly busy, given that it was a Tuesday night. We were put on a waitlist for outdoor seating and then snagged a table inside by the window. This way we could at least see the patio people and live vicariously through them.

Playa Cabana TorontoOur jealousy of the patio dwellers was short-lived as inside seating didn't prove to be a poor substitute. Although I wouldn't say the decor is traditional Mexican, the heavy emphasis on wood and exposed brick definitely lends a cabin feel giving the cabana part of its title some credence. As for space and seating, some may say cramped, but I say cozy.

Playa Cabana is also something of a tequila bar so we had to sample their wares, and they have a lot to offer in this domain. Their tequila menu consists of 32 selections and as if this wasn't enough a note at the bottom of the menu states, "Ask your server for a more extensive list".

Playa Cabana TorontoThey also have pitchers of house drinks. Yes, pitchers. I was initially drawn to the mojito, but this being a Mexican restaurant, and not a Cuban one, we went with a pitcher of Amber Agave margarita ($39). Made with El Jimador Reposado, it's sweetened with organic agave nectar and freshly squeezed orange juice, as opposed to triple sec or cane sugar. Only the price stopped us from going back for more.

Playa Cabana TorontoWhile waiting, we ordered some nachos and salsa ($3) to inspire thirst. The salsa was on the watery side, but the hand pressed corn tortilla chips made up for it.

Playa Cabana TorontoFor mains, Steph ordered the Pollo Milanesa Chipotle Burrito ($15) while I went with the Tacos de Pescado ($12). Now I know traditional Mexican burritos are typically eaten with a knife and fork, however I still think that a burrito tastes better when eaten by wrapping ones hands around it. Steph was unable to do this as it came heavily adorned with colourful sauces and could not be picked up. The battered and fried chicken came blanketed by rice, beans, Oaxacan cheese and the aforementioned sauces, that were mild and tasted strongly of tomato.

Playa Cabana TorontoMy three "catch of the day" white fish tacos (bass on this day, to be precise) looked good but lacked flavour. Cradled in corn tortillas, the fish was deep-fried and came served with rice and beans (choice of black or pinto) and a trio of salsas, none of which had the kick I was hoping for.

Playa Cabana TorontoWe never did get those patio seats. I'm pretty sure the pitchers decorating every table may have had something to do with this, and it's hard to be angry at a pitcher. Fortunately, a bigger backyard patio is in the works.

Footnote: I returned on a much quieter Thursday to take some more interior and exterior shots, hence all of the available seating... but believe me - the place was hoppin' on a Tuesday.

Hours of Operation:
Tues. & Wed. 5pm - 12am
Thurs. 12pm - 12am
Fri. & Sat. 12pm - 2am
Sun. 12pm - 10pm

Playa Cabana TorontoWriting by Rebecca Fleming. Photography by Aurora King. Exterior by Jesse Milns.

Discussion

46 Comments

luca / July 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm
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well I visited last night with a friend what a disappointment
overpriced under boozed drinks, ok food
they try to fancy up Mexican food and forget what makes Mexican food so awesome
I was pleased with the empanadas but the burritos are mediocre at best
can't say for the rest of the menu but we were in and out pretty quickly
although the server was nice and the place is cozy
it was just ok not someplace I'd go back
Candy / July 25, 2011 at 01:58 pm
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I love fish tacos in my mouth.
Hezeus / July 25, 2011 at 02:05 pm
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$12 for 3 fish tacos?!
natalie / July 25, 2011 at 02:17 pm
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Patrón!
JoeParez / July 25, 2011 at 02:30 pm
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Fish Tacos? I'm there!
Ken / July 25, 2011 at 03:24 pm
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If you've going to pay $12 for fish tacos, you might as well go to Joey's Restaurant at Shops at Don Mills - http://www.joeyrestaurants.com/

They make the meanest fish tacos and it's a decent size and the location is much more classier.

raymi / July 25, 2011 at 03:55 pm
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hot sauce selection good?
senorgringo / July 25, 2011 at 04:09 pm
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@ken: "much more classier"?
The Real Johnson / July 25, 2011 at 04:51 pm
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Given your "meh" review of the food, I'll stick to El Rincon on St. Clair West when I'm craving decent food on a big back yard patio (where there's never trouble getting a seat). And go to El Trompo when I need great tacos.
luca replying to a comment from raymi / July 25, 2011 at 06:04 pm
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what hot sauce?? they didn't bring any to the table... really
C / July 25, 2011 at 06:21 pm
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@Ken... Obviously you haven't had Moxie's fish tacos then. I had the Joey's ones last weekend... They were alright but I had a hard time finding any fish flavour (I tasted the shrimp more). The Moxies ones are pretty awesome and around that $12 mark.

Though I'm sure there's way better fish tacos in this city made by authentic mexican restaurants.

Ps. Joey's sweet potato fries are the best I've ever had.... $8 though for a small basket... Nuts!!
Zhadu / July 25, 2011 at 06:52 pm
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Thirty years living in Mexico, and I never saw anyone eat a burrito with a knife and fork.
Luca replying to a comment from Candy / July 25, 2011 at 07:21 pm
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can't argue with that.. I'm a vagitarian.. fish taco is best
Jboss / July 25, 2011 at 08:24 pm
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I've been to Playa Cabana a few times and the food is excellent. The Tequila list and how the staff cares about tequila (both in cocktails and straight form) is something rare. I lived in Mexico for a time and I can honestly say this is one of the best Mexican places in Toronto. Por Supesto!
Bossj replying to a comment from Jboss / July 25, 2011 at 09:33 pm
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he works there
luca / July 25, 2011 at 11:06 pm
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can't comment about the tequila selection but to say that it is a good mexican restaurant is a far fetched idea.. from a good mexican restaurant I expect at least home made tortillas with fresh masa not the pre made stuff..

Like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfX1v_lTgHU

it is the equivalent of going to a pizzeria and being served frozen pizza
beet ya! / July 26, 2011 at 07:25 am
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my poop smells weird.
Tee / August 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm
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Ate there last night. Food and drinks are delicious - and inventive. Service is on the slowish side but the place was packed. I will definitely be back.
Rosielee / August 9, 2011 at 11:57 am
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They do actually make their own home made tortillas and corn chips - for the person who said that. I'm a regular, so clearly love the place. I haven't tried anything I didn't like. (And I'm actually really picky) The wait may be longer then places where you can pop in for a quick dinner, but it's a small place and they do work their butt off to make their clients happy.

Reccomended for sure, try it once. If you hate it, don't go back.
Rayz / August 18, 2011 at 07:36 pm
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Been to this place 3 times now and I must say it is
the overall best value and bang for your buck Mexican
restaurant in Toronto.The food is always fresh and the guacamole is killer. Fish tacos are great! Not too fishy...
Great fresh condiments to boot. Margaritas are made authentically as well as the food. Great tequila too..the staff will give you a lesson on good vs bad tequila. The tequila bar has the good ,better and best on hand. $90 for the rarest smoothest tequila ever. This is one great neighbourhood happening place!

PG / September 3, 2011 at 06:15 pm
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Going this evening and I am dubious .. By the way Rayz ... FYI
Your quote "Fish tacos are great! Not to fishy" says a great deal,
fish dish's are not meant to taste fishy at any time .... more to come
tech
eater / September 24, 2011 at 03:55 pm
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this is owned by one half of the team behind chimmichanga`s at Y&E, which is pretty weak mexican food.

that is why i haven`t gone to playa yet
mexicanfood replying to a comment from eater / October 11, 2011 at 01:47 pm
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it's a completely separate entity, with no ties to chimichanga's! not even comparable, and I've eaten at both!
Ted Baker replying to a comment from luca / December 30, 2011 at 02:33 am
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What a dissapointment this place was! Food, staff and service sucked! Felt like a bunch kids running the place as a summer pick up joing to get laid. Never go here!
LocoMexicano / December 30, 2011 at 05:50 pm
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$12 TACOS!?!? Give me a break! Drop the prices please!!! The tacos at Playa should only be $6! I love eating at Playa but the menu is way too expensive! Small portions add insult to injury when you get the bill at the end of the meal. The decor is beautiful inside and the staff were nice. I might add that nobody working there when I was having dinner was Mexican. I was hoping to see a few Mexicanos being a Mexican restaurant!
Dana & Trevor / January 1, 2012 at 04:34 pm
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Best New years ever! Best Mexican food and the drinks were out of this world! The price was amazing considering the quality, care and freshness. AUTHENTIC, upscale but very homey. Staff, kitchen and amazing bartender!
Jorge Rameros replying to a comment from luca / January 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm
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This is NOT a Mexican restaurant! (I would know, I'm from Mexico!) I felt so angry after visiting this place and seeing a Non Mexican butchering my food! If you want real Mexican food where the food is cooked by an acutal Mexican owner then go to Kensington Market!
tom / January 4, 2012 at 11:14 pm
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Chimichanga's. . . didn't that place go bankrupt? With all the talk of Playa not being authentic and the staff issues, who does own the restaurant?
MexicanAnyone / January 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm
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I remember chimichangas... went there a few years ago. It sucked! I remember the food and service being below standard and the menu being expensive. I heard the same head chef from chimichangas is the owner of Playa, so the food can't be any better, that's why I've stayed away. Let me know if wrong so I can check it out. Judging from these reviews though, I probably won't.
SohoNYC / January 9, 2012 at 09:40 pm
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I never write reviews but I had to because of how sick this place made me! I couldn't make it to work because I was in bed with a high fever and was on the toilette every five minutes! STAY AWAY FROM THE FISH! I specifically ate the fish because of all the good reviews and it's BS! I had something called a ceivieche or something, felt fine going down but a few hours later my body completely shut down! If the owners are reading this, your seafood is disgusting. My girl had a burrito and she was fine the next day. I will never eat here again!
T replying to a comment from luca / March 29, 2012 at 05:03 pm
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You're nuts. This is the best place ever
Jennifer / July 19, 2012 at 06:08 pm
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Pros:
- great fish tacos
- octopus tacos

Cons:
- terrible terrible service (even McDonalds have better customer service)
- very small (you cant have an intimate conservation with your dining companion, and one of the women at the table next to ours was actually breastfeeding her newborn, and the servants did nothing about it! gross!)
- very pricey given how small the portion is (the bill does come to you as a shock)

Overall, I would go back BUT to get takeout. And given their terrible service and servants who barely cares, I would not even call ahead to order and pick it up, I would just go order and wait for my food.
lucy replying to a comment from Jennifer / August 29, 2012 at 05:46 pm
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It is ILLEGAL to ask a women to stop breast feeding. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a woman has the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere - and the educated, courteous, and respectful staff would know that.

A word of advice: perhaps you received poor service because you refer to the staff as 'servants'.

Come meet the rest of us in the 21st century please.
Brent M replying to a comment from lucy / October 7, 2012 at 11:36 am
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Legal or not, it's still disgusting and inappropriate.
Danae / October 19, 2012 at 10:04 am
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I went with a friend last night to have dinner there. When we called we were given a reservation on their heated, enclosed back patio. We were expecting something like the patio at Hemmingways. Not the case. It was freezing back there, about three heaters were working and rain was blowing through the tarp that they had jerry-rigged over the patio. Our food was cold and our service was super slow. Tasty drinks though.
TB / December 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm
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Just tried the new location in the junction it was delicious they gave us comp guacamole which was fresh loved the salsa was the best I've had in Toronto. You get a lot of food which justifies the price for me friendly attentive staff 5 stars for decor I'll definitely be back.
Emily / December 15, 2012 at 11:03 am
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The food here is good, great even. I would go back for the food. However, the service is TERRIBLE. Also the back patio is disgusting. It's tarps held up by painting poles. It's not worth it to pay $75 for dinner and eat in a tent. Gross. They are obviously making money as it's packed. Put some money into staff and decore. Unacceptable.
OVERPRICED / February 5, 2013 at 01:52 pm
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For just okay Mexican food, this place is way overpriced. Would not go back, it was insulting.
kimmiloo replying to a comment from luca / March 25, 2013 at 08:54 pm
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LOL @ being disappointed about missing "what makes Mexican food so awesome" and then ordering burritos....TEX MEX
JP / May 21, 2013 at 03:12 pm
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Burritos and Patron are American. Go to Mexico (ie. not a wristband beach resort) and see for yourself.

For Toronto, Milagro is decent Mexican restaurant.
JoQ / July 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm
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Stale tacos and clueless host. But a good atmosphere and good corn on the cob.
Laura bee / December 20, 2013 at 01:09 pm
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Heard so much about this place, so I was really excited to check it out. We started out good - the drink pitcher was delicious, even if I'm not complete sure what was in it. I also tried the house made cream soda, and it was yummy. But it was downhill from there. The chips and salsa were a big disappointment - AMAZING salsa paired with overwhelmingly greasy chips. My crispy chicken taco was also overpowered by a crazy greasy taco shell and chicken that tasted like it had been sitting at the bottom of the pot for a long time.
And yes, the service does suck. The waiter was overly nice, but never there when you needed him.
新着 トレンチコート 超歓迎 / January 20, 2014 at 12:10 am
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Does your website have a contact page? I'm having trouble locating it but,
I'd like to shoot you an email. I've got some ideas for
your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and
I look forward to seeing it develop over time.
Warren / February 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm
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Worst place ever. I got here at 7pm it's now 10:15 and I am still waiting for my food. It is busy but I complained 4 times and still no food.
Don't come here unless you have nothing to do.

The building is falling apart as well

Ill repost in 3 hours how the food is once it comes.
Warren / February 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm
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Finally my food came and try for the order wrong. Very very bad service. Don't ever think about coming to this dump.
I am waiting for my order now again.
This is unreal
Kandis / February 19, 2014 at 05:12 pm
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Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this amazing site needs far more
attention. I'll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the info!

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