When the team at Tres Carnales Taqueria started spreading their ambitious goal of bringing real Mexican food to Edmonton, I didn’t know what to think. Edmonton has seen the gauntlet of so called Mexican food over the years with nothing, in my opinion, truly hitting the mark. The menus always seem to include a variety of more common Tex-Mex options, with that famous neon cheese. On the other side of the spectrum, there are restaurants where the menu doesn’t even focus on Mexico; instead you get a mix of any or all countries in Central America. So while I was intrigued at the thought of something I’ve wanted in Edmonton for years and years, I also felt a bit nervous. Would the team really deliver on the hype?
Everything was in place this past weekend, which meant everyone could come down for a little taco love while celebrating Canada Day. The restaurant is open, with street access coming from two separate doors. The interior is energetic and full of character with a giant mural next to the counter, a simple tin ceiling to that helps take you away from the concrete jungle, and two walls full of art, figurines, and even a favourite kitchen tool of mine, a molcajete. It’s a great look.
There is an assortment of 2 and 4 top tables, along with a family style table that’s perfect for big groups or getting to know strangers. The menu includes an assortment of tacos, tortas (sandwiches), quesadillas and a soup. At first this might be overwhelming, but in the end, you have just 7 different fillings to use in your delivery method of choice. If you’re thirsty, there is a selection of beverages, including beer, sangria and the very delicious aqua de jamaica.
Sarah and I ended up stopping in on Friday on our way to the Works Festival, and if you can believe it, coming back on Saturday. So with two nights of gorging, I was able to make my way through the menu and back again. And while we did come for the tacos, we threw a torta in for good measure. The house made tortilla chips and guacamole was very addictive, with the right amount of bite in each chip and a nice touch of salt all without being oily. They were so addictive in fact that on our second visit we ordered a second round to squash our hunger. I also thought the Tres Carnales stamped paper delivery system was a nice nod.
The 7 options, which may change with popularity and demand include Vegetarian0 – vegan grilled chiles and corn, Carnitas – slow braised pork shoulder, Pollo Asado – marinated and grilled chicken, Arrachera – marinated and grilled flank steak, Al Pastor – slow roasted marinated pork, Chorizo – house made Mexican ground sausage, & Rajas con Crema – poblano chiles and corn in cream. A plate of three, double wrapped tacos will cost you ten bucks, which is the same price you’ll pay for the tortas. Choice is a good thing in this case, and is probably what’s going to make Tres Carnales so popular. If you don’t like chorizo for example, you might fall in love with the chicken. Or if chicken isn’t your thing, maybe it’s the vegetariano you’ll order. I can only suggest you take a crack at every option so that you can then choose for yourself. Me, well, I had a love affair with the succulent roasted vegetables in the vegetariano option; juicy, flavourful, and jumping with summer freshness. Others delish items included the arrachera, which needed just a squeeze of the lime segment to make the beef really shine, and the chorizo, which needed nothing more than a dollop of salsa to sing sweet meat songs in my belly. If there was one negative, it was roasted pork shoulder which I found to be lacking the famous fatty feel that is so common with this cut of pork. Really though, both meals were huge success stories and that is exactly what I want in a restaurant experience.
I’m still not sure how to sum up my experience at Tres Carnales. It might just be my love affair with Mexican cuisine, but even with that said, I haven’t found a restaurant in years that I’d go back to the very next day. The tacos and tortas fill a much needed void in Edmonton, and it just so happens that Chris, Dani, and Edgar are three really nice dudes which makes the shop that much easier to love. Bring your friends, your family, or your coworkers to Tres Carnales…I know I’m going to.