Address: 210 Slater St, Ottawa
Hours: 11am – 2pm (Mon – Tue); 11am – 3pm (Wed – Fri)
Opening their doors in Spring 2018, Toro Taqueria has brought a taco-focused menu to the lunch crowd in the heart of downtown Ottawa.
Since Toro is only open for a few hours a day, and only on weekdays, it took some planning and patience for the stars to align so that my wife and I could both go to put their tacos to the test. We arrived after the dreaded lunch-rush had dispersed, and we were nearly alone in the small restaurant.
Toro foregoes the typical, brightly-coloured aesthetic of many Latin American restaurants, and goes for a very contemporary vibe – white subway tile walls, minimal décor, and a patterned wall with a set of horns for all of your Instagramming needs.
The daily taco offerings are pinned up on a wall behind the counter, and with the ability to mix and match tacos (three for $13.50), we could nearly sweep the menu with one lunch. Taco staples and good baseline measures like the pollo asado, carnitas, and barbacoa were a must. I couldn’t resist the allure of the campechano (barbacoa, carnitas, chorizo and chicharrons) or Guadalajara (pollo asado, red chiles, and chorizo), and the picadillo was the last of the carnivorous options. A side order of guac was $1.50.
For hydration, we went with a glass of their house-made hibiscus aqua fresca and a mandarin Jarritos soda. By the time we chose our drinks and paid up, our tacos were assembled, and we settled in to feast.
Of the more standard tacos, the barbacoa stood out flavour-wise, although the beef was a shade on the dry side.
The chorizo and chicharrons on the campechano and Guadalajara tacos set those two above the rest, with a big punch of flavour and crunchiness, not to mention that they were meaty beasts to begin with.
My wife and I appreciated that the picadillo, which was comprised of ground beef and potato in a salsa roja, had a different mix of textures from the other tacos.
All of the tacos were dressed the same with radish, pickled onion, a sprig of cilantro, and a lime wedge. The flavours were bright and fresh, although the overall flavour balance was skewed too far toward the meat.
A good taco can’t be a good taco without a good tortilla; the best tacos I’ve ever had were because of the quality of the tortilla. While Toro uses corn tortillas, they don’t get the love on a flattop grill that would really let them shine; they’re better than flour, but just not living up to their full potential.
After we had our fill of tacos, my wife snagged some dessert for the road – a churro donut ($3), and a Mayan hot chocolate cookie ($2.50). The churro donut was a bit disappointing because it’s just a regular cinnamon and sugar donut that comes with your choice of three dipping sauces that are typically paired with churros (chocolate, dulce de leche or Nutella). The Mayan chocolate cookie was the easy winner of the two, with a chocolate base, chocolate chips, and a nice little heat on the back end.
Toro Taqueria is a cute little shop with a great concept, but they need a little bit more refinement to reach the heights of taco greatness. When they get there, I’d love to see them open later and on the weekends for all of my taco-ing needs.