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Despite the great variety of "ethnic" food in Vancouver, the city lacks in Mexican cuisine. Las Margaritas is probably the best known Mexican restaurant in the city, mostly because it has a nice garden patio in the trendy neighbourhood of Kits. I came here once or twice in the 90's with my dad for lunch. I have fond memories and we always enjoyed ourselves.
Inside it has a colourful atmosphere of a rustic cantina. There are romanticized images of Mexican photos and art on the walls. The floors and the tables are tiled. Every table is candle-lit. The restaurant is spacious, but they cram every inch with tables. Outside is a garden patio - a popular location on a summer day where locals come for drinks.
However, while Las Margaritas seems promising, and despite the generous portions, the food is bland and underwhelming.
The last time I was there was during a long weekend in May at 5pm. It was quiet when we arrived, however, within 10 minutes the place filled up. Every second table had really young kids - toddlers and babies. It felt like Chuck E Cheese! While our drinks and food were served on time, we had to remind them again for our second round of drinks, and wait 20 minutes for them to arrive. For food so bland, there were no bottles of hot sauce on the table - surprising for a Mexican restaurant! Luckily, we had a friendly server, but it was obvious she was busy hopping between 20 other tables as well as ours.
If you're from the USA and love your Mexican food, or if you're from Mexico, or have had authentic Mexican food before, do not go to Las Margaritas expecting this - you'll be disappointed! I find that most people who are used to the Mexican food available in the USA are surprised at how poor Vancouver's Mexican choices are. Las Margaritas is popular because it's one of Vancouer's only Mexican restaurants, and it's located in a funky building in a trendy neighbourhood. It's kid-friendly and the portions are huge, but flavour is severely lacking.
Favorite Dish: The free salsa and chips were good - the salsa was a thick purée of tomatos, chili and cilantro - definitely not watery or chunky pre-made stuff you get in a jar. The tortilla chips were very crispy and fried - not like the dry stuff you get at grocery stores.
The strawberry margaritas were made like 7-11 Slurpees, out of a mix poured from a "Margaritaville" machine. Like most margaritas found in Vancouver, they have an icy consistacy - they're not liquidy. I kind of like it when it's icy like a slurpee, but some other people don't. I liked their margaritas, but you could tell it was made from a mix.
They have a pretty big menu with a page of appetizers, a page of their own creations (their own special chicken mole, or their west coast inspired salmon creations), and a page with traditional Mexican tacos, enchiladas, etc. I ordered the 2 ground beef tacos with soft corn shells. It came wih refried beans and rice. The rice I found was too dry, almost like powder. If there was guacamole or salsa, it would have been better, but the rice on its own was dry. While the tacos were moist, I found that they were very bland. I had to pour tons of hot sauce on them after waiting 15 minutes for the hot sauce to arrive. By then I had already finished most of my meal.
I won't write off Las Margaritas for bland food - I'll try one of their entrées next time instead. I'll stay clear of their traditional Mexican food like tacos and chimichangas.
Las Margaritas will likely fix a craving for Mexican food, but my opinion is that you don't come to Vancouver for excellent Mexican food. You come to Vancouver for excellent Asian and west coast cuisine. If you must eat Mexican food, Las Margaritas offers a family-friendly, Mexican-inspired atmosphere with gigantic portions. If you're passionate about tasty Mexican food and don't care about atmopshere, my American Mexican-food addict friends claim that Taco Del Mar is as close to the real thing as you can get in Vancouver.
Address: 1999 W 4th Ave, Vancouver
Directions: On the north-east corner of W 4th and Maple Street, in Kits.
Phone: (604) 734-7117
This restaurant is my sister's favourite, and I've never been disappointed. It's a fun place to go with friends, as it's quite an upbeat and lively atmosphere. Prepare for a wait during peak times, though, as it's quite a popular place, and for good reason. If you have to wait, though, you can grab a margarita at the bar, which makes the wait a little less of a hardship. :)
You start with free nachos and salsa at the table while you peruse the menu. It can be very tempting to fill up on these, as they're quite far removed from the oversalted, overprocessed nachos you'd buy in a bag. They're crispy and actually taste of corn. The salsa is fresh and lovely as well. But as I said, resist the temptation to overstuff with these, as your meal is coming soon, and it's a generous portion.
The staff is friendly, the speed of service reasonable, and the prices are pretty middle-of-the-road by Vancouver standards. The quality and quantity of the food, though, make the prices seem quite cheap.
Favorite Dish: The enchilada verde is wonderful - a warm chicken enchilada drizzled with tomatillo sauce. It's wonderfully cheesy and the tomatillo sauce is a bright contrast to the spicy flavours of the enchilada.
Address: 1999 W 4th Ave, Vancouver
Directions: On the north-east corner of W 4th and Maple Street, in Kitsilano
Phone: (604) 734-7117
This is one of the few Mexican restaurants we were able to find in Vancouver. Short wait for a table, and huge portions. Pretty good!
Favorite Dish: My plate of veggie nachos was a piled a foot high - and really tasty, and not all heavy and greasy like some Mexican places do it
Address: 1999 West 4th Avenue
Directions: in Kitsilano
Website: http://www.lasmargaritas.comAdd to your Trip Planner
Their plates are huge huge huge and delicious. A fairly typical Mexican restaurant with a good ambiance, (tile floor, Mexican pics and decorations) and the prices are decent.
Favorite Dish: Their combination dishes. I enjoy #6 or #7- a veggie burrito, 2 chile rellenos, rice and beans.
Directions: 199 4th Avenue, a few blocks before Burrard (where you will find Pepita's, another great but way smaller Mexican restaurant).
Great mexican food! Great atmosphere! Book your table or get there early!
Favorite Dish: Fajitas are FABULOUS! Sangria is also good! Great place for birthdays! (This is Melina's Birthday Party!)
Address: West 4th
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