It was exactly 5pm and my entire body was dripping like a river runs through it Golden Retriever. Toronto was experiencing plus 40 degree weather with humidity and all I wanted to do was jump into a bath tub full of ice cubes. I burst into the restaurant, first out of the gate. I was standing inside 501 College Street which used to be the home of one of my favorite Italian restaurants Briscola Trattoria.
Back peddle: in June I was invited by Hassel Aviles, the owner and founder of the Toronto Underground Market to showcase one of the most popular food events in the city. We emailed back and forth once the review went up and I soon discovered that she is married to Andrew the owner and chef of La Carnita. Can you whisper, “Toronto foodie power couple?”
I actually couldn’t help but laugh when I discovered this connection. It really showcases how Hassel’s vision to support home chef’s to the point where they are able to move into their own space can be a reality. La Carnita started as a pop up which gained such notoriety in the Toronto food scene that it garnered a cult following. In many ways La Carnita is a TUM success story. Both Andrew and Hassel come from a marketing and advertising background which is clearly visible in both of their successful endevors. So, after much discussion Hassel and I coordinated a date for me to come in and review La Carnita’s new permanent home.
I arrived an hour early so took the time to take pictures of the funky space which includes a strong connection to the concepts earlier street side roots. I was soon joined by the always smiling Hassel and her business partner Kate Clegg. Both women are borderline crazy obsessed with food (which I relate to obviously) and the sort of ladies I would want to marry if I were not a homosexual. I desperately need to find their gay doppelgangers.
We spent the next few hours enthusiastically ranting and raving about Toronto’s food scene, the development and continued success of TUM and Andrew’s fantastic menu. Everything that arrived at the table was a revelation.
Surveying the crowd I realized that La Carnita has created a new sort of Mexican restaurant in Toronto with an atmosphere which extends beyond El Trompo or Milagro. The vibe here is electric with Toronto’s food obsessed crowd many of which perfectly fit the Carnita Cult and TUM demographic. The room was abuzz with smiles, bulging eyes and the crunch of munch. The dining room featured a mixed bag: family dinner with the kids, post work drinks n snacks and girlfriends night out. The common thread between each table: peoples insatiable love for the food.
La Carnita can now be found on my Toronto Top Restaurant list. The place quickly fills up with diners and by the time I left the entire restaurant was packed full. Make a mental note that this pop up cum restaurant is worth waiting in line for.
I sampled (* notes my favorites)
The OG Michelada
tecate, clamato, lime juice, hot sauce
Gin and Juice *
2oz gin, grapefruit juice, chili cinnamon syrup
Mexican Street Corn *
mexican crema, queso anejo, arbol and ancho chili powder
cochinita pibil, jicama orange salsa, queso anejo, pickled onion and cilantro
Avocado Mango Salad *
cilantro, lime dressing, queso fresco and pepitas
In Cod We Trust
voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple and cilantro
Pollo Frito *
peanut mole saue, pickled green cabbage and salsa fresca
Crispy Avocado and Frijoles *
beans, crispy avocado, jicama, chipotle sauce, queso fresco and cilantro
Tostada de Lengua
cilantro verde, cashew sauce, grilled pineapple, radish and beet sprouts
Arctic Char Tostada
corn salsa, Ontario pea shoots, grilled tomato, coriander, hot sauce
strawberry, cajeta and chicharron
Churros with Cajeta *