Tacos El Asador
Tacos El Asador is a Koreatown institution, serving up authentic El Salvadorian and other Central American favorites. This small and always buzzing cantina captures the mood, excitement and most importantly flavours of Central American dining.
The small 20-seat restaurant is always teeming with crowds filling up the half dozen red picnic benches. When arriving during a dinner rush, I always keep my fingers crossed that a seat opens up before my meal is ready -- an assumed courtesy at El Asador is to avoid lingering once your plates are clear. From personal experience, while often a close call, something always seems to open up just in time.
On my latest trip, I found the unintended benefit of showing up 10 minutes late for a 2pm Saturday lunch meant my party already had the table ready.
A couple of Dos Equis ($5.75) were brought to the table by the always present pseudo-manager, affectionately known as Smokey. A fixture at El Asador, Smokey always welcomes customers, whether regulars or newbie's with a big smile in his kind and humble manner.
The first dish to our table was the Birria (goat) soup ($9) which is recommended as a full meal. One enthusiastic member of our group dived into the hearty and rich soup as his personal appetizer. Tender chunks of goat meat, still on the bone, created a savory and delicious broth. With a mix of slowly cooked vegetables, cilantro, and a bit of peppery kick, the soup is a real winner.
A half dozen fish and guac tacos ($3.30 each) arrived next in a mix of soft and crispy corn tortillas. Lightly seasoned, pan fried white fish were served with a generous portion of zesty guacamole, and topped with a light salsa.
The cochinita soft tacos ($3.30 each) come with flavourful pulled pork and pickled cabbage in a double-corn tortilla. The homemade Aji (hot sauce) and jalapeno/onion salad, compliments this taco with a welcome spicy kick.
The restaurant is known for their pupusas and we didn't miss the opportunity to try them again. Offered in cheese, bean, chicharron and squash varieties ($2.95 each), these were served pipping hot off the pan. I'd advise that you give the pupusas a couple minutes to cool as the mild, stringy cheese and smoldering beans can do a number to the roof of your mouth; either wait for them to cool, or keep your cerveza close. When topped with their special tomato-based salsa roja, these greasy pupusas do not disappoint!
The friendly atmosphere and delicious food at Tacos El Asador are what make the place so special and why so many continue to come back. Having been around well before this latest taco-trend emerged in Toronto, Tacos El Asador has kept to what it does best: good, simple and authentic El Salvadorian menu at reasonable prices.
Tacos El Asador is open from lunch to 9pm everyday.
Photos by Marni Wolf