Story by Katie Marti
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — There are two things that draw me to Tofino: Amazing surf adventures and the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. Just off the main drag, tucked in the back of a gravel parking lot behind a surf shop and a coffee shop, is a little orange bus that was been converted into a food truck called Tacofino. Despite the fact that it has been in operation for only three years, Tacofino has quickly evolved into an institution on the west coast of Vancouver Island and, for many, it’s just not a trip to the Pacific coast until they’ve stopped in for a tasty taco treat.
Given that food trucks have become somewhat of a staple in larger cities, it was only a matter of time before Tacofino set up shop in Vancouver. When the city called for street food vendor applications in 2011, Tacofino quickly came on board with not one, but two trucks offering their Baja-style tacos and burritos with a focus on quality ingredients and sustainability. In fact, the invite couldn’t have come at a better time, according to co-owner Kaeli Robinsong, as the original business was struggling with zoning bylaws that prohibited mobile restaurants in Tofino.
“A couple of guys who had frequented our Tofino truck since the beginning approached us with an offer to partner together in getting Tacofino up and running in Vancouver,” Robinsong remembers. “We felt as though we had nothing to lose.”
Ironically, Tofino’s town council did grant them one more temporary permit at the eleventh hour, allowing them to operate on Vancouver Island this summer after all and putting them in a position to actually be running three trucks when all’s said and done.
Leaving what Robinsong describes as “the tranquility of Tofino for the big city” proved to be a good move as the business has continued to grow at warp speed on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. In fact, two weeks ago Tacofino took up residence in a real, live, honest-to-goodness restaurant at 2327 East Hastings Street in the Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood of Vancouver’s East Village.
When I asked Robinsong what gave Tacofino an edge and set them apart in a city full of foodies, her reply was simple: “We just make our food and hope it speaks for itself.”
Indeed, the Commissary menu holds true to her word. Selections include food-truck favourites (my fish tacos made the cut) as well as a few new soon-to-be classics, such as grilled chicken hearts on a stick served with pickled watermelon ($6) and a surf-and-turf that consists of fried squid and chicken with cilantro and black chile mayonnaise ($12). The decor is clean and simple, much like the menu, with long wooden tables, whitewashed walls and funky, bulbous light fixtures custom made for the restaurant by a local artist and friend to the owners.
Of course, the fully stocked bar at the end of the room does nothing but add to the general appeal of the place, boasting several varieties of tequila and Tofino Brewing Company ales on tap. Oh, and a blender for margaritas. Arrrriba!
MORE ABOUT TACOFINO
Food trucks: With three locations in Vancouver and the original truck still operating out of Tofino, Tacofino is becoming one of the most successful food operations in BC. You can find the blue burrito truck in downtown Vancouver on the corner of Burrard and Dunsmuir Streets, and the orange taco truck just next to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Square. Both trucks operate out of these locations Monday to Friday from 11 am-3 pm, but they are also been known to pop up at various festivals and events throughout the city.
Commissary: No menu item is more than $12 at the new restaurant. It is open Thursday-Monday from 5-10 pm for dinner and even later if you’re thirsty for a cerveza.
Contact info: For up-to-the-minute information regarding truck locations, hours of operation and all things Tacofino, follow them on Twitter (@TacoFinoCantina), give them a shout at 604-253-TACO or visit their website at www.tacofino.com.
MAP SHOWING COMMISSARY AT 2327 EAST HASTINGS STREET
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NOTE: Photo courtesy of Tacofino