Playa Cabana Zocalo
Zocalo is the main square of Mexico City that lends its name to this restaurant serving quesadillas and tacos on house-pressed tortillas made using local masa.
Former visitors to those spots would hardly recognize the transformed place, if not for a few key details that have been repurposed. The Dolly’s bar top is now under the bar, and a sprawling art piece set into the wall at the front has been cut out and given prominence at the back.
Imported Mexican tile breaks up and freshens old linoleum, and a custom sign above the bar is modelled after retro TTC lettering. The capacity hasn’t actually expanded, but opening up the ceilings to discover stunning rafters makes the space feel much larger.
An empanada ($14) utilizes the same masa as the quesadillas and tacos to wrap up juicy Mexican Gulf shrimp tossed in a chipotle salsa, cabbage, jalapeno, and stretchy Oaxaca cheese.
The whole package is topped with cotija and crema, plated in a pool of bright salsa verde made with tomatillo, jalapeno and cilantro.
The name of the Ahogada torta ($12) translates roughly to drowned or sunken, indicative of the way each component of the sandwich has been drenched in sauce.
Prairie Boy baguette is dunked into a smoky, smouldering tomato onion chipotle salsa, then stuffed with carnitas made from Berkshire pork leg and belly that’s been braised with pork fat, orange and spices for about four hours, pulled, and grilled lightly on the plancha.
From there the sandwich is plated in a pool of chipotle salsa with some thinly sliced onions pickled in lime juice on top, bringing a hint of acidity to the rich, sloppy dish.
The Machete quesadilla ($20) is great for a night of sharing drinks and Instagramming with a group, a long sword-shaped house tortilla stuffed with chipotle-sauced chicken, sauteed mushrooms, green chorizo and a sumptuous beef barbacoa marinated with chilis and adobo seasoning, all held together by that gooey cheese.
A mild tomatillo salsa and a smoky and creamy yet unexpectedly stinging chili de arbol salsa accompany everything, though they seem especially appropriate for quesadillas and tacos.
Churros ($12) are crunchy yet fluffy and appropriately over-sugared, curving ostentatiously out of a coffee cup with thin but luscious caramel sauce at the bottom.
A Melona ($10) successfully mimics the flavour profile of the popular honeydew popsicles by combining Patron, McGuiness Melon, lemon juice, pineapple juice and Angostura bitters, cracked black pepper for an adult finishing touch.
The Jacobo ($14) is kind of like an alternative to a margarita with Tromba Reposado, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and a heavy salt rim, coloured by flavourless blue algae.
As was Dolly’s, Zocalo remains an extension of the Playa Cabana family.