While we recently mentioned two new Mexican spots about to open up, here are two places that opened up in downtown Vancouver over the past few months. Both are actually places that have undergone transformations from their previous incarnations, drawing inspiration from down south.
Mexican meets masala
Fact: Mexico and India are from the same continent.
Okay, so that revisionist geographical take may be hard to swallow. But the food at this place isn't.
This casual cantina opened up in February at 433 Granville Street toward the northern end of the downtown core. It was formerly Cannibal Café's second spot (their location at 1818 Commercial Drive remains open) but has undergone quite the transformation.
With a menu fusing Mexican and Indian cuisine, there are items you won't find at other Mexican or Indian restaurants.
Their roti-taco tacones are available with masaladobo (their sweet and spicy Indo-salsa), raita verde (their mix of salsa verde with Indian raita), and plancha tortillas (or gluten-free corn tostadas). Options ($6.50 to $14) include chicken konomole, ginger duck kebabs, yam and potato pekoras, tikka-roasted wild salmon, or blackened tuna tikka taki.
There are also bowls, salads, and soup, such as the Masaladobo bowl, with golden basmati rice and sofrito-coconut gravy with fresh greens, pickles, and masaladobo ($8), or their vegan chowder with smoked chili-coconut broth and masala roasted corn ($3.50, $6, or $10).
The added bonus is that the majority of the menu is gluten- and dairy-free, with vegan and vegetarian options.
Drinks range from non-alcoholic options, including housemade chai (including regular as well as chili chocolate or Okanagan apple versions), sparkling soda with house-made syrup (Indian cola, coconut lime, pistachio cream soda), to margaritas (on tap), highballs, wine, and beer.
Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. while the cantina menu starts at 2 p.m. and runs until closing.
Tacos and tequila
Sip Resto-Lounge, which opened up back in 2004, has undergone a reincarnation, relaunching as the Pawn Shop at 1117 Granville Street.
Although the owners remain the same, it's a completely new vibe.
Taking its cues from East L.A. and the come-as-you-are vibe of southern Californian grab 'n' go eateries, the 90-seat Pawn Shop (which opened in December and has a 10-seat patio) adds its tacos and tequila bar to Vancouver's Granville lively nightlife strip.
Open for lunch, dinner, and late-night whatnot-ery, the menu, which keeps prices affordable, offers eight tacos ($3.95 to $4.95 each) to choose from, ranging from pollo (buttermilk fried chicken, house slaw, pickled daikon) or al pastor (fried pork belly, house slaw, grilled pineapple) to pescado (beer-battered basa fish, house slaw). Tacos are served on flour tortillas (or soft corn shells for those seeking gluten-free options).
In addition to burritos ($9.95) and nachos ($9.95), there's an assortment of dishes, including Big City Baos, offering three bao buns with roasted pork belly ($12.95); Pawn Shop Waffles, featuring two deep-fried waffles with slow-pulled pork and buttermilk fried chicken ($14.95); and the Hitman, which includes skirt steak, grilled flatbread, shoestring fries, and house slaw ($12.95).
Cocktails ($7.95 to $10.95) run the range from Michelada (Cazadores, Clamato, spices, lager) to Paloma (Cazadores, lime, grapefruit bitters, Jarritos grapefruit soda) or there's even a coconut float (1800 coconut tequila, pineapple juice, and soda with coconut ice cream).
There's also a variety of local draught beer, bulldogs, spiked slushes, shooters, and more to round things out while DJs, '90s music nights, and happy hours (raise your hand if you can resist $1 tacos) keep things hopping.