Every summer, I really enjoy playing on my grass 4’s co-ed volleyball league – not only is the game itself a lot of fun, but we usually end up going somewhere for a bite in the area when we’re done for the night. This year, we’ve done a great job of hitting a new spot pretty much every week, as our usual favourite Vietnamese place of years past is sadly no longer around.
Recently, we made our way over to Tacofino Commissary, a new restaurant on East Hastings near Nanaimo that opened after the success of the food truck that originated in Tofino and the Blue Burrito and Orange Taco trucks serving Baja-inspired tacos in downtown Vancouver. While I’ve never been to either of the brightly coloured trucks located on Robson or Burrard, I’d heard good things and so we decided to check it out. Luckily, there were 6 of us dining together that evening, so we had the opportunity to really get through a substantial part of their fresh and unique menu, which is substantially different from the truck menus (only the fish tacos and ice cream sandwich dessert are shared across all locations).
When we first walked in, it was already past 9 PM, and the place was still really busy. After a little helpful reorganizing at the wooden tables and stools, we were seated in the middle of the room and ready to get started on our evening.
The restaurant had a great casual vibe and funky deco, with a floral / plant light installation throughout the dining room and bathrooms.
A few of us ordered cocktails, while a couple of us had a delicious Mint Lime Freshie mocktail – super tart and refreshing and a perfect way to rehydrate after a night of ball.
Since we had so many different dishes, I’ll give a quick summary of each item that was brought to the table and shared between our group, starting with the Poke Tostada. One of the all-around faves of the night, this was composed of albacore tuna, soy, sesame, wakame, and beer hazelnuts served with a lime wedge and crisp tostada.
The Pickle Jar was a seasonal selection of veggies, including carrots, cauliflower, fennel, and definitely had a sharp zing of spice to it, like most of the food of the night.
The Nachos, with roasted jalapeños, cheddar, monterey jack, salsa fresca, and crema also went over really well, and we managed to chow these down in a respectable time.
A few people were skeptical when I went ahead and ordered the Heart on a Stick, but everyone did end up trying it. It was an interesting combination, with pickled watermelon and cucumber and jerked spices, but I quite liked it. The chicken hearts themselves were a little bit overcooked, but it was a fun dish, nonetheless.
I personally loved the Chicken Wings, with jalapenos, tamarind, black garlic, scallions, and mint. Mint is one of those fresh spices that will get me every time – I love the refreshing flavour it adds when used the right way.
The Surf & Turf was definitely another crowd pleaser, with fried squid and chicken, cilantro, and a black chile mayo. Crisp and hot, these went down well.
We then of course had to try some of the taco varieties available. After all of the shared plates, I only could handle one full one to myself, and chose the Beef Shortrib Taco. The meat was tender and I managed to get my hands dirty with this one for sure – little trails of food were circling my side plate by the end of the meal.
One of the specials was the Squash Taco, which was a great vegetarian alternative.
The Pork Cheek Taco came with cabbage, fried shallot, pineapple, and sriracha. Although it was quite good, I did still prefer my beef one the best of everything we tried. We didn’t have any fish tacos, which is something that can be found at the two food trucks in Vancouver, and will have to head over soon.
After all this, of course we still decided that we needed dessert. After a lot of going back and forth, we figured the best thing to do would just be to order, well, one of each! So we went through the entire menu, and shared 5 of the sweet selections.
The Fruit Cup was a colourful seasonal selection that included mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew all with lime, chile, sugar, and sea salt. My absolute favourite, that I continue to crave on almost a daily basis, was the Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream – it was very smooth, salty and sweet, which is a combination that I adore. I was expecting there to be small bits of pretzel within the ice cream itself, but there were none to be found, and I definitely hogged this dessert above all the others. The Ice Cream Sandwich, with a chocolate diablo cookie and vanilla ice cream was another delicious treat. The Lime Curd Vaso was lip puckeringly tart, with brown butter graham crumbs and whipped cream. Finally, the Banana Churros with ibarra chocolate and banana–sriracha ice cream rounded off the selection nicely.
Open from Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30pm until around 11 for dinner, and drinks for a bit later, I’m guessing this place will continue to stay bustling for awhile to come. Tacofino Commissary has a winning combo with great atmosphere, delicious drinks, and fantastic dishes reinforced with friendly and fun service.
2327 E Hastings St
Vancouver, BC, V5L 1V6