Vancouver enjoyed a surge of immigration from Latin America during the 1980s and 90s. Particularly countries— Chile, Colombia, El Salvador— where dictators ran rampant, corruption abounded and civil war tore at the seams of communities. Others, from Mexico for example, moved here seeking economic opportunity. Today over 28,000 Latin Americans live in Metro Vancouver, with almost 9000 calling East Vancouver home— or rather, casa.
In almost equal measure, though some decades delayed, there’s been a recent upwelling of Latin American eateries in the city, and again, particularly the east side. I had the pleasure of visiting one this week (i.e. the only one I had not already visited). Going in, I was pretty certain I had tried Vancouver’s most delicious papusas, arepas, and tacos; and now I can safely say I have tasted the finest— though probably the only— queso fundido in town.
La Mezcaleria is the latest addition to the Commercial Drive hodgepodge, although it isn’t totally new. The great people behind the La Taqueria opened this dinnertime counterpart in May. They still offer the authentic pinche tacos at four for $9.50, the classic Mexican street dish that made them famous, but the name of the game at this new incarnation is hardly meat wrapped in tortilla.
Mezcal (also Mescal or Mezkal), as the restaurant’s About page explains, is “a spirit distilled from mash made out of the steamed hearts of various species of agaves.”
The word, meaning “cooked agave,” stems from Nuhuatl, the language of the erstwhile Aztecs and, today, some 1.5 million indigenous Mesoamericans. The term Mezcaleria adds the Spanish suffix, and means— evidently— a place where they serve Mezcal. The implicit comparison to sister-shack La Taqueria therefore emphasizes the supremacy of alcohol at the new establishment.
The room is dark, intimate. Atmosphere: seductive. The drink menu is out of control. They promote a myriad of Mezcal varieties, which in turn represent 42 species of agave plant and range from $7 to $28 per ounce or $24 to $43 per flight. They also offer a healthy assortment of tequilas, cervezas and cocteles. Circumspectly I started with the Mezcal Sour, an unsurprising two-ounce twist on the Whiskey-based standard, and followed up with a Rum Toddy (on special), which featured a stylish cinnamon rod and orange slice. It was delightful. The secret ingredient, our waiter tattled, was melted ice cream.