Poncho’s Mexican Restaurant

Poncho's Mexican Restaurant

To wrap up our coverage of this year’s Tastes of Latin America festival, we bring you a long overdue review of Poncho’s Mexican Restaurant.  Poncho’s is Vancouver’s second-longest running Mexican restaurant, and they are the longest-running if you base it on never having moved locations.  They’ve been at the West End hub of Denman and Robson streets since 1988, and just celebrated their 26th anniversary this Canada Day!

Poncho's Mexican Restaurant

Staying in business that long must mean they are doing something right.  We chatted with owner Kaeta who is definitely part of Poncho’s charm.  She is the friendly and outspoken owner/operator/server/entertainer (and also a former culinary instructor on Mexican cooking).  She is full of neat anecdotes about Mexican food and the stories behind the dishes.

Pandesallymy bro who came along for this reviewand I also ran into an old friend of ours from Alberta at Poncho’s.  He said whenever he’s in town visiting he has to stop in at Poncho’s for their flaming coffee…read on for more on that drinko loco!

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Salteñas Cafe and Pastries

The “Tastes of Latin America” festival in Vancouver has started!  This event will take place from June 28th to July 6th, and is part of the Carnaval del Sol that’s going to take place in downtown Granville Street on July 5-6th this year.

Saltenas Cafe and Pastries - exteriorA few Vancouver restaurants are offering specially priced menus during this event, and Salteñas Cafe and Pastries is one of them (see their festival menu here).  I got the chance to pay them a visit and learn all about (and try) their specialty – Salteñas!

Pamela was my fabulous host of the day and she gave me the whole run-down of the operation, from how the cafe started to how to properly eat a salteña (the squiggly above the ‘n’ makes a “nia” sound).  Pamela’s mother first started exposing Vancouver to the strictly Bolivian salteña with appearances on Channel M (now OMNI).  On the side, she would cater to friend’s and family’s orders for birthday parties and such.  Once it got popular and the demand became great, they opened the cafe!

Saltenas Cafe and Pastries - interiorSalteñas is a quaint little Bolivian family-run cafe in the East Village in Vancouver.  Along with the specialty Salteña pastry (which I will go into detail later), they also serve Bolivian coffee, empanadas, salads, the Latin cookie Alfajor, and various other baked goods.

Saltenas Cafe and Pastries - other productsThey also sell Bolivian coffee and jars of the delectable Dulce de Leche.

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Seasons 52 – La Jolla, San Diego

I officially LOVE San Diego!  It’s so sunny and summery and the outdoor eating area of the complex I was training in had their OWN FREAKING WATERFALL!!!!!  It was so nice to sit under an umbrella with a lovely coastal breeze keeping you just cool enough while you eat your lunch in front of a waterfall.  I want to move here so badly.  Of course I know the grass always seems to be greener on the other side…but it’s mighty green I tell ya!

Seasons 52 - exteriorAnyways, on my second night, a friend took me to Seasons 52 Fresh Grill and Wine Bar at the Westfield UTC.  Boy was that a beautiful mall!  It’s an outdoor complex with cabanas and wicker seats spread throughout and music playing on speakers.  I would describe it as an outdoor pool party without the pool.  It was just a wonderful place to be on a wonderfully breezy, sunny day.

Seasons 52 - bar

We decided to sit at the bar since the night we were there (a Tuesday!), there was live piano music!  On a weekday!  See why I love San Diego already?  The pianist was fabulous, taking requests and playing jazzy versions of the songs.

Seasons 52 - Flights and Flatbreads

One of the specials Seasons 52 is known for is their “Flights & Flatbreads”.  For $15-25, you get a flight of 3 wines plus a choice of flatbread, then you get a full glass of your favorite.  The lower price point is for either a white or red wine flight, while the $25 price point is for their “Acclaimed series” wine flight.

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Spices Thai Cafe – Mira Mesa, San Diego

Well well well, I’m back in San Diego again, this time for work.  I was quite excited not only because this is my first business trip, but also ’cause it’s an opportunity for out-of-town posts!!  Prior to the trip I googled and urbanspoon’d for where to eat.  I finally decided on Spices Thai Cafe in Mira Mesa as one of the choices.

Spices Thai Cafe - exteriorI arrived around late dinner time and as soon as I checked into my hotel, I went out for food.   Unfortunately, by the time I walked there it was getting close to closing, so I was only able to order take-out.  I quickly picked out some items to go.

Spices Thai Cafe - interiorWhich was too bad though…the interior looked pretty fancy, more than the name of “cafe” would have me believe.  Clean and bright, the décor was very welcoming with some nice exotic statues as decorations.

Spices Thai Cafe - Larb KaiFor appetizer, I picked the Larb Kai ($8.95USD).  It is a ‘salad’ of sorts made of minced chicken that’s seasoned and spiced with lime juice, chili, rice powder, and fresh mint. Continue reading

Taqueria Playa Tropical

Wendy and I have recently been on a bit of a quest to find the best restaurant in New Westminster.  We tried some of the overly hyped restaurants at the River Market, but somehow this lesser-known gem slipped our mind.  Taqueria Playa Tropical is an authentic Mexican restaurant on 6th St. that we have been frequenting for some time, and have had a review in the draft stages for a year now (!!).  The pictures below are from a mix of visits during this time period, so please excuse the older, lower resolution ones.

After a recent visit with Pandesally and his family I realized out of all the many meals I’ve had at Taqueria Playa Tropical I’ve never had a less than stellar  experience.

Taqueria Playa Tropical - new interior

The restaurant has changed since we first started frequenting it; they’ve knocked out a wall and doubled the size of the space.  It’s also much more airy and bright, and has a warm and welcoming homey atmosphere.  The family running it extend this vibe through their always friendly and smiling servers (especially George!).  I remember forgetting some bags of groceries there once, and not only did they hold onto them until some time later, they put them in the fridge for me so nothing would spoil.  Gracias otra vez, amigos!

Taqueria Playa Tropical - chips and salsa

Once seated you will be treated to some complimentary chips and salsa.  The chips are refillable, too!  They may or may not charge you the extra $1 listed on their menu for extra chips, I haven’t noticed it on any of my bills yet so who knows.

Taqueria Playa Tropical - Barbacoa Monster Burrito

This is my favourite Taqueria Playa Tropical offering, being the big eater that I am.  I just wolfed down the Phatty Burrito at Dup’s Burritos this weekend, the equivalent of 5-6 of Dup’s regular burritos!  The Monster Burrito pictured above isn’t quite as extreme, but it’s still enough to fill the biggest stomach in your crew.

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