If there’s been one business whose reputation has preceded itself, it’s Tacofino. It wasn’t long after the food cart project started that whispers floated in the wind. “That ______ cart is good,” is how many people would start, but “you should check out this taco truck in Tofino” is how many people would inevitably end.

Since they’ve opened shop in Vancouver, I’ve been visiting their trucks off and on, and in particular their Burrard street one, which seems a constant fixture relative to their other truck at the Vancouver Art Gallery, whose presence fluctuates with the season. It was the former truck – Tacofino Blue, in my nomenclature - where I had my first introduction, and didn’t think much of the burritos. Months went by before I’d visit again.

But it nagged at my mind. Those whispers grew bold, and it was no longer restricted to the food cart scene alone. “Those Tacofino tacos are the best in town,” people exclaimed, and I felt like a fraud for not having tried one.

And thus I finally visited Tacofino Orange this year, sat on the Vancouver Art Gallery steps, and looked down at this behemoth fish taco ($4.50) in one hand, lightly tempura battered with a mound of shredded cabbage and salsa fresca (all atop a toasted tortilla, a feature common to all of their tacos, which I’m convinced gives Tacofino a running start already), teemed to the point of structural instability. In the other hand, a tuna ta-taco ($6.50), the fish just peeking out from even more shredded cabbage, mango salsa and a seaweed salad. Both fell merrily apart while I wolfed them down, each bite a sloppy, haphazard one to enjoy, a delicious problem to have. The people were right: there was something to this.

Given that fervour and success, it was no surprise when news of a Tacofino Commissary surfaced. This, a new church for all of its followers, gorgeous in its details (talk will undoubtedly spread just as fast about the Omer Abel light fixtures), the boxed-in heat and noise whirling up to a delirious haze of religious devotion. The booze helps; the inventive cocktail list helps even more. The tacos are here – albeit less structurally challenged – with a couple that were previously only intermittently featured at the trucks now taking a regular position on the Commissary menu: a pork cheek taco ($6) gestures towards an al pastor with bits of pineapple and fried shallots and cabbage duelling in equal amounts; a beer-braised beef taco ($6) also features pickled chayote, peppers and an avocado crema. 

The expanded environment brings expanded offerings as well.  A shared plate portion of the menu runs a broad gamut. A deconstructed tamale ($12) places grilled masa off to the side, providing a bedrock for slightly fried spot prawns, lardons and a slow-cooked egg to bind it all together in a satisfying disarray. The surf and turf ($12) has deep-fried bits from land (chicken) and sea (squid), with the odd deep-fried lemon wedge bringing new revelation. The cauliflower ($8) is not unlike Nuba’s beloved Najib’s, crisped up with other bits of crispy rice, chilies and perhaps slightly too much fish sauce. The eggplant ($6) sees some Asian inspiration, served with dollops of XO sauce, as does the gringa ($6), a crispy tortilla with pork al pastor complimented with a touch of kimchi. Additional desserts join the familiar chocolate diablo cookie as well. The churros ($7) are overly dense, but it’s accompanied by housemade banana sriracha ice cream, a good retort against any jaded complaints that the hot sauce has now reached bacon-esque overexposure.

All of this has been immensely satisfying - both for my appetite and my curiosity - and it makes perfect sense that the line-ups are long, even at only two weeks in. I have no doubt in my mind that the line will grow even longer as news travels. Believe the hype, and get there fast.


Blue Truck on Burrard at Dunsmuir
Orange Truck on Howe at Robson (Vancouver At Gallery)

Tacofino Commissary
2327 E Hastings Street (at Nanaimo)
Vancouver, BC
604 253 TACO