I had first heard about Grand Electric from my sister’s friend, Catherine. Years ago, Catherine had travelled to California and fallen in love with fish tacos and had been searching for the Toronto equivalent for years. Her favourite fish tacos in the city are from Playa Cabana and she has yet to try Grand Electric. I feel slightly terrible for trying this suggestion without her (and without a few other people I had promised after that) but now I can tell her (and them!) that it is delicious!
Grand Electric is one of the more exclusive and sought after restaurants in the city. It’s exclusivity is not attributed to price, but rather size. It is a tiny little restaurant that jams in about 25 people and slightly more during the summer on their patio. Crowds of people are drawn to this restaurant due to the legend of their tacos and will wait outside in the snow and rain in hopes of getting a taste of these legendary tacos. To avoid the crowds and ensure that we would be able to try all the deliciousness that Grand Electric promises, GC and I had lunch on a Sunday and the restaurant was tightly packed but with no lineup outside.
If you hate hipsters you should definitely not visit this place. There are records on vinyl, antlers, craft beer and thick, plastic frame glasses everywhere. It is your grandmother’s 1970s basement meets hunting lodge meets Mexican food. A too cool vibe which is the perfect setting to enjoy some delicious food.
I make it a point to try the guacamole at every Mexican restaurant I visit.
No, this guacamole was not radioactive and poisonous, it is just a camera flash being slightly too powerful. This guacamole was exactly how I like my guac – half creamy and smooth, half chunky and dressed with a little bit of cilantro, garlic and lime. There is no need to put tomatoes in guacamole. It causes the guac to become too running and adds to much sweetness which takes away from the sharp acidity from the lime and cilantro and the vampire kick of the garlic. You can get your fill of tomato from the salsa on the side which was slightly chunky and had a great amount of heat – the perfect following act to the headliner guacamole. The chips were WARM! I am not highlighting this as a point of anger but rather a point of deliciousness! It brought out the corn flavour even more and highlighted that Grand Electric means business – fresh, homemade ingredients coming together to make a delicious meal made to order.
Grand Electric, like La Carnita, allows you to order tacos individually, allowing us to try 5 different tacos that day.
Top left, clockwise: Spicy Arbol Chicken taco, Scrapple taco, Beef Check taco and Pork Tinga taco.
These are easily my favourite tacos in the city. Grand Electric is easily worth the trek out to Dufferin, worth the wait and worth the claustrophobic seating. Omigosh. Taco by taco, here is what I thought:
The chicken taco was spicy, warm and tender. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the pickled cabbage brought out the sweetness in the marinade.
Scrapple is something neither GC or I had heard of so obviously once it was described one of us had to get it. Grand Electric does their scrapple by boiling down the head of a pig until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Then this meat is formed into a loaf along with other ingredients and then cut into slices and fried. The result is fatty, salty, juiciness wrapped in a light tortilla. Who knew the face of a pig could taste so good?
This beef cheek taco was unbelievable. The meat was tender, falling apart but maintaining all its flavour. It was rich, deep and decadent. It was smoky and crispy. The toppings of guacamole, cilantro and jalapenos were the perfect trio of flavours to match the boldness of flavour that was found in the meat. Apparently some of the best flavours in an animal are found in its face.
The pork tinga tacos had all the qualities of the beef cheek tacos but with pork instead of beef. The crema made this taco even more decadent and rich, with the pork and crema battling for the tastebuds in your mouth.
And of course, the reason for coming, the fish tacos. These have become an area of contention between me and GC. GC loved these, I thought they were just okay. We agreed that the toppings were the perfect compliment to the fish and the sweet, crunchiness of the cabbage slaw paired well with the crema and the heat of the salsa. The issue for me came from the fish itself which is the reason GC loved them. The fish reminded me of the fish in fish & chips, not the fish you should find in a taco. The fish in fish & chips is about the breading – it is greasy, crunchy and consumes the flaky, delicate nature of the fish. In a taco, the fish should be lightly breaded, adding a slight crunch rather than an overpowering CRUNCH. If that’s how you like your fish then you will love these tacos. Unfortunately I did not.
We finished off with a little dessert, a keylime pie in a cup.
This is the perfect cup of dessert. The whipped cream was homemade, light and airy. The key lime itself was sweet, thick and completely luscious. It felt like such an indulgence and complete extravagance to eat something to velvety smooth and sweet. The crust on the bottom left little to be desired. It did not taste like a good graham cracker crust mixed with butter and sugar but just like crumbs that had been smushed into the bottom of the cup. But after several spoon fulls of the key lime I really could have cared less.
If I am in search of fish tacos (and more accurately, feeling lazy), I will be sticking with La Carnita. If I am craving Mexican food, whether it be guacamole, tacos or key lime pie, I will be going to Grand Electric!