A walk through Toronto’s Kensington Market a couple of weeks ago alerted me to the sore realization that Montreal’s Mexican (food) revolution is long overdue.
Old school, traditional taquerias — where you sit elbow-to-elbow with strangers at a long, communal table while scarfing down a plate of tacos al pastor or tinga chicken while sipping on hibiscus agua fresca — aren’t a thing here like they are in other major cities. Yet.
The relatively recent openings of Mile End’s Ta Chido on Parc and Maïs on St-Laurent have provided some reprieve from the Three Amigos-style of imposter Mexican food that plagues Montreal, but with a single taco costing a minimum of $3, it’s definitely an upscale take on what’s supposed to be street-level food, regardless of how authentic the flavours are.
But ignorance isn’t bliss, friends. Now that the city is finally in mid-hop onto the Mexican bandwagon (and the artisanal doughnut bandwagon, for that matter), I need to introduce you to something really special, Montreal: the churro.
If heaven’s a piece of deep-fried dough — and of course it is — then the churro is a product of immaculate conception.
This ridged, hollowed-out tube of pâte à choux is, once fried, traditionally lightly coated in sugar and filled to order with dulce de leche or chocolate sauce. It’s usually relatively easy to get your hands on one in most big cities, particularly those with large Mexican populations, but “churro” is not yet a widely recognized word in Montreal’s collective culinary vernacular.
But lucky for you, churros are already available all over Montreal and are dirt cheap.
From NDG to Villeray, a typical seven-inch long churro will set you back between $1 and $1.50, with the most expensive, at El Rey del Taco in the Jean-Talon Market, topping out at $2.
Churros Montreal in Villeray has been making its semi-eponymous specialty for about 15 years and supplies places like Librerie Espagnole with their churros on a daily basis (except for Sundays). But freshness really is key to a successful churro-eating experience, and nothing beats fried-to-order. For that, you’ll have to go straight to the source. Churros Montreal (7497 St-Hubert, open Wed–Sun, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.), $1.25 each or $14 for a dozen, dulce de leche or chocolate filling
Its west side counterpart, Che Churro on Somerled in NDG, has been in business for a few years now and, in addition to its namesake, also serves up a mish-mash of Latino products like empanadas and alfajores. Like Sabor Latino, it also has a small Latin American grocery section. Che Churro (6543 Somerled, open seven days a week, see here for hours), $1 plain or $1.25 filled, dulce de leche or chocolate filling
Both locations of the aforementioned Sabor Latino offer churros among a collection of other Latin American pastries and meals; a recent trip to the St-Laurent location yielded a corn-filled tamale and an alfajor, which were pretty good, if a little stale from being out all day. Sabor Latino (436 Bélanger and 4387 St-Laurent, open seven days a week, see here for hours), $1.25, dulce de leche filling only
Finally, the most expensive of the lot (and, for many, accessible, due to its proximity to the Jean-Talon Market), El Rey del Taco. A phone call with an employee in broken Spanish and French revealed they fry their churros twice a day and not to order, so at $2 a pop, you really are paying a premium for location. El Rey del Taco (232 Jean-Talon E., open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), $2 plain or filled, current promotion of $14 for a dozen, dulce de leche filling only ■