Xola Toronto

Xola

COVID-19 Updates

Xola is open for takeout, delivery and dine-in. Masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is at the door. 

Xola, which means "by the water" in Mayan, sits a five-minute walk from the lake in the Beaches and serves up Mexican food like you won't find anywhere else in the city.

Besides the standard fish tacos and burritos (available only for takeout), more unexpected options like Mexican truffle-stuffed quesadillas and tacos filled with grasshoppers round out the menu. 

Xola Toronto

The restaurant has garnered a name for itself after eight years on Queen East and features colourful graffiti from Mexican mural artist Andre Castro inside its small 18-seater dining room. 

Xola Toronto

The owner and Xalapa-native Mali Fernandez opened in 2013 with her husband Francisco Zea after cooking at Tapas at Embrujo (formerly Embrujo Flamenco), one of the city's oldest spots for Spanish tapas. 

Xola Toronto

The chef of more than 13 years has now mostly retired to front-of-house and leaves it to her sous-chef, Luis Sanchez to whip up the traditional recipes found here, many of which come from Fernandez's grandmother. 

Xola Toronto

Everything is made from scratch in the tiny kitchen, and meat, free range chicken and AAA tenderloin, and veggies are bought locally while ingredients like the various peppers are sourced from Mexico. 

Xola TorontoThe traditional mole with chicken ($24.50) takes a whole eight hours to prepare and is made with chocolate, Mexican dry peppers, plantain, as well as walnuts and almonds. 

Xola TorontoHomemade corn tortillas, which are pressed to order, and rice and beans go on the side of this chocolate-rich mole dish. 

Xola TorontoThe grilled octopus ($19.90) comes with a chocolate-less mole paste, and then a reduction of balsamic vinegar chorizo, sweet potato and refried beans underneath. A flavourful salsa smeared on the side of the plate is prepared with pumpkin seeds. 

Xola Toronto

The masa shells for the vegetarian quesadillas ($20.95) are deep-fried and stuffed with zucchini blossoms, mushrooms, Oaxaca cheese and huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn. 

Xola TorontoSure, it may not sound very appetizing but the Mexican truffle is delicious, especially for those who enjoy the taste of mushroom and corn, and more than makes up for the lack of meat. 

Xola Toronto

The more adventurous customers would pair the huitlacoche quesadillas with an order of crunchy chapulina tacos ($13). Lightly seasoned, roasted and paired with tomatoes on a corn tortilla, the smoky grasshoppers aren't half bad, if you can get over the texture. 

Xola Toronto

The insect protein shows up on the menu a few times, including in one of the six guacamole variations on offer. We try the cactus guac ($16.95) made with the edible paddles of the nopal cactus found in Mexico. The cactus and pineapple make for an especially citrusy guacamole. 

Xola TorontoEven ceviche goes beyond your typical shrimp – there are three options at any time and sometimes an added ceviche special. The yellow ceviche ($19.50), including haddock, xcatic pepper, and fresh lime and orange, is on special during our visit. 

Xola TorontoThe six-ounce flank steak ($26.50), which is most popular in Fernandez's home region of Xalapa, sits on nopal cactus and comes with the side of plantain topped with sour cream and fresco cheese. 

Xola Toronto

When it comes to the drink list, a Mexican cosmo ($11.50) with hibiscus tea should be the top choice next to one of the unique margaritas (cucumber, strawberry and mango). The frothy top gives way to a sour, citrusy sip that doesn't go easy on tequila. 

Xola offers home-cooked meals for anyone interested in branching off from Toronto faves (I'm looking at you, birria tacos) to try something new the next time Mexican food is on the mind. 

Xola Toronto

Photos by

Fareen Karim


Xola

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