Grand Electric, Toronto-A Convivial New Dining Experience

A friend and I braved the lineup to try Grand Electric for dinner last night. I had read a rave review by Joanne Kates in the winter and have meant to try it for some time. A beautiful warm night certainly made it easier, as the capacity of the restaurant doubled with their patio full of picnic benches crammed with people in every possible seat.

I must admit I have been on a taco tasting mission this month. One of the motivating factors has been missing out on Rick Bayless Mexican food, at Tortas Frontera at Chicago O’Hare airport. I have had my heart set on eating there since January this year. I knew nothing of Rick Bayless when I passed by the restaurant at the crack of dawn on my way back from Hawaii in early January. I just knew the menu looked amazingly appetizing and I had to try it another time. I passed through Chicago again in May and due to many circumstances at the airport, I missed out on eating at Tortas Fronteras again!!!

Tacos have been on my mind to say the least, so first stop was Tacos el Asador on Bloor. Very simple, well done, authentic tacos with their fish tacos being most exceptional. Next stop was going to be Playa Cabana, but the line was too long for the friend I was with, so we went to an old standby, Dos Amigos. After so many years, Dos Amigos does not disappoint with their blackberry margarita, cactus salad, and tacos al pastor complete with 3 sauces and pickled jalapeno.

Third on the taco tour was Grand Electric. After a wait of over an hour, we were shown 2 seats at a picnic table on the patio of Grand Electric. Our tablemates were friendly, we asked for recommendations and scoped out what they were eating. We decided to order one of every taco, in addition to spicy squid, tuna ceviche, and miami ribs.

I wish I could tell you which taco was what type, but that is the fun of eating here. Big, bold, intense flavours and not easily discernible meats…the fresh garnishes of cilantro and thin sliced jalapeno are a sparkling touch. Everything we had was great, although I cannot say I loved the fish taco. The key lime pie is super. So is the bourbonade. Grand Electric is first and foremost about the special, convivial experience and the food is outstanding as well. Otherwise, it isn’t so fun to wait for over an hour, squeeze into a picnic bench by a wall and deal with a ‘queue’ for the washrooms. The whole experience was unique and reminded me of another very different dining experience, Mission Chinese in San Francisco. Dining is a highly social activity and Grand Electric gives Toronto an innovative, new experience.

Another point of curiosity for me was learning of another Mexican restaurant situated in Brooklyn, NY with a similar name, Gran Electrica. I asked one of the owners and Grand Electric in Toronto was open first and both restaurants appear to be inspired by the same painting, Grand Electric Skull. The Brooklyn restaurant has some big names behind it, so it will be most interesting to compare notes. Hopefully some friend will head to New York soon and let me know.

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