Maybe I’m jaded after my time in Central America, or maybe it’s my love for cooks like Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy, but quality Mexican food is more than just hard to come by around here. Tex-Mex, that’s easy, but authentic Mexican. Heck, some would say even in Canada, it’s hard to find. I have plenty of theories behind this; street food doesn’t always make the transition to sit down dinning, availability of the same ingredients, and a lack of adventure are just a few. Plus we don’t have and/or support the street cart mentality in Canada which seriously affects the ability of a cheap place to set up, meaning your everyday items are no longer a good deal.
Located in strange little strip mall in the neighbourhood of Duggan, The 3 Amigos has been serving up Mexican cuisine for at least a few years now, and as you can tell from the name, claims to be authentic. I found a mix of reviews on the internet so I decided to venture in with an open mind. Housed in an old Subway location, the restaurant offers a few tables to sit at with the obligatory Mexican paraphernalia on the walls, along with a counter where you can place your take out orders. I noticed during my wait that plenty of lights were burnt out, half of the menu boards were empty. Overall things were looking a little worse for wear. The counter was filled with pictures of the food tucked inside plastic holders; do people still have that much trouble differentiating between a tostada and a burrito? Stay with me on this next one, but it was impossible not to see the donair meat. WTF? They even call the donairs Mariachi Donairs. Don’t think it’s anything special though, because it’s not ‘Mex’d’ up in anyway. Oh well. I was almost won over by the pozole, but decided on the 3 taco meal. With options of ground beef, chicken and al pastor, I went with the classic, al pastor. Inquiring if I could make adjustments, the man informed me everything is already proportioned out, so I could not mix the taco’s. Oh well. 3 al pastor is better than no al pastor.
With my meal in hand, I thought it would be easier to snap my pictures outside. So I opened the car and ate my tacos, picnic style. Hidden inside the styrofoam box, was a container of sour cream and guacamole, tacos, rice, and refried beans. I was also offered hot or mild salsa; of course, I picked hot. First things first. The rice; bland and boring, it had a terrible texture and didn’t even look that appealing. On top of that, the spoonful of beans followed along the same path and were almost flavourless. How can you have flavourless refried beans? The last time I checked, lard carried a pretty distinct flavour.
The hot salsa, was indeed hot, but seemed like standard green bottle salsa. The guacamole was good, offering a nice chunky texture with perfectly ripe avocados. Finally, the tacos. Where is the pineapple? Is that all the cilantro I get? How about a fresh layer of onions? Hmmm. Picking up the tacos, I quickly realized these were the thinnest tortillas I’d ever encountered. In fact they started to rip apart with just the slightest touch. I think I could have used my Jedi mind powers (which are way out of practice), and they would have ripped. The flavour, nothing to write about here. A bit of initial marinade, it soon turned into a chewy pork mess. I’m used to al pastor being slowly cooked, so the gristle like texture was very disappointing.
So was it authentic? Not to this guy. I’m no expert, but I’ve had tortillas and tacos from all over the place and these didn’t stand out. Too many bad signs. From the microwave getting a workout during my meal prep to the bland beans (canned anyone), all of which added up to a below average meal. Did I order the wrong thing? Should I have gone with something more American? But wait, that’s not authentic..and in my experience, neither was this.