Celebrating their first anniversary just this past November, Puerto Mexico has made themselves a name far beyond Kitsilano neighbourhood.
Warm sunshine, white sands, clear waters, a few cervezas… although this little shop on West 4th can’t bring those in, they offer more than enough Mexican produce and products to take home; sit at their bar for tacos and pretend you’re on a Puerto à la sunshine.
I’ve been told I have a tendency to name things sometimes on my own whim. I’ve been calling this taco joint Taco Taco since I first laid my eyes on it – strangely enough, people know where I’m talking about. How? Possibly because it’s one of Vancouver’s best authentic Mexican street-food.
That’s a pretty tall order, I know. So let me explain. Although new, Puerto Mexico is no stranger to the restaurant industry, Chef Carlos has been a chef in some of Vancouver’s most well-known restaurants including Trattoria on 4th and even involved with the opening of Coast on Alberni (enjoy the ceviche? Yep, that’s his family recipe).
In the mornings you can find Carlos kicking a ball back and forth with his five-year-old son. Not sure if his younger son, Danilo, (family of two boys) is the next Ronaldo but it could well happen as football (soccer) runs though his blood. Before Carlos found his way in the restaurant industry, his story begins coming in from Guadalajara to Vancouver. Carlos played professional football (… yes, still talking about soccer), for six years but sadly had a bad knee injury towards the end. He flew into Canada in the first week of 2007 for a tryout with the Vancouver Whitecaps when they were in NASL and made the team in February. Sadly, his knee injury kept holding him back with heavy pain every time he trained and played. Carlos took a job in a kitchen; Over time, Carlos’ skill and his desire to do better helped him work up in the kitchen. Although being on the Whitecaps turned out to not be his calling, being in the kitchen sure was.
They say, behind every strong man is an even stronger woman. Puerto Mexico is no exception to this as Carlos’ wife Liz is his secret weapon.
His coming to Vancouver proved a double shot when he met now-wife, Liz Almeda. When socializing used to be the only thing to do at parties, Carlos Hernandez locked eyes with Liz and knew he shouldn’t loose her. Just like any fairytale, Liz left the next day for Mexico and Carlos realized he must go and spend time with her; Two months later Carlos found himself asking for her hand in marriage, and fourteen years later they not only spawned two handsome boys but also a taqueria.
“I gotta give it to Liz though, she’s the one who cooks all the meats!” said Carlos. Each morning Liz prepares the meats for the day ahead. Although Liz is a celebrated home-chef, this is where Carlos comes in the picture. “He was the one who taught me how to brown the onions properly and how to use correct techniques for my food to be that much extra,” said Liz. Puerto Mexico was supposed to be only a Mexican product shop, the tacos were an afterthought after Liz expressed interest in taking her home-cooking to a new level.
“Carlos is trained to dish out amazing Italian meals, funny thing is he doesn’t know how to make Mexican cuisine like me!” laughed Liz.
Their menu is simple: vegetarian, beef, chicken or pork. I had the pleasure of munching on the shops most popular items: Taco de Suadero, Tacos de Mole and Tacos. All ingredients are fresh and vegetables chopped and prepared in small batches daily; Tacos are soft, warm and mouthwatering….to say the least. “The secret is the ingredients have to be cooked in small batches and love given to each. Instead of one big pot for the Suadero for example, we have 5 different pots all cooking small batches, this way love can be given to each,” said Carlos. I wish that was the only secret.
It took me a good four hours to stop thinking about how good they were.
The joint offers hot fresh tacos daily along with a smile at 2710 West 4th Ave, or take them to your next event for catering needs!
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