The very first La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop (which opened doors in 2009) is getting ready to make the move three blocks west from its original location (255 East Hastings) into its new digs at 601 West Hastings (at Seymour).
It’s nothing more than a split-level concrete box at the moment, but as I toured the space with the La Taqueria team earlier this week, they walked me through their vision for a vibrant and modern yet authentic taqueria that I’m very much looking forward to visiting on the regular.
The 1,800 square foot taqueria’s design is a collaborative effort between co-owner Marcelo Ramirez and Rafael Santa Ana Architecture Workshop, drawing inspiration from minimalist aesthetics, earth tones and abundant natural light (thanks to 35-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling windows on three of its four walls). Upon completion, the restaurant will offer seating for 40 guests, with a mix of two- and four-person tables, as well as bar seating and outdoor space for an additional dozen guests on a sprawling shared plaza, sheltered year-round by a vaulted atrium – all situated at grade with the street.
Perched above the dining room is the mezzanine kitchen, which will be accessed by a (yet to be built) flight of stairs – ensuring what is sure to be a very fit service team. A trompo vertical rotisserie will take place of prominence here, set up to tempt diners with a full view of the cooking al pastor.
The La Taqueria redesign isn’t just about new equipment and aesthetics, though. Executive Chef Maria Ponce is also fine-tuning a menu that is both fresh and true to what Vancouver loves about the taqueria, now five locations strong: simple, authentic street food inspired by México. More details are still to come, but so far we know we can expect an emphasis on tacos. As Ponce explains: “This location is going to be different from the standard La Taqueria; we’re returning to our roots and focusing more on street style dishes and authentic Mexican taqueria vibes with high quality and authentic flavours – it’s going to be really good!” Similarly, drink options will be more focussed, limited to a strong margarita program (rocks and frozen), as well as crisp, cold beer.
I have a soft spot for the original location, and I recognize that the elements which made it so special – the intimate size and quirky charm – are the same elements that La Taqueria will be giving up with the adoption of its sleek new address. Overall, though, I think that the real magic of this taqueria has always been its welcoming, laid back ambience – as comfortable for a meal with a group of friends as it is for a first date or a solo lunch – and I take comfort in knowing that this ease and warmth will make the transition into their new location down the street, intact.
One of the things that reassures me of this is the design of the building itself (by B+H Architecture), which consciously incorporates elements to accommodate and encourage public interaction. This includes a community plaza with large pebble-shaped seating and a retractable wall of Seymour Street-facing windows, blending indoor and outdoor spaces, along with a vibrantly coloured vaulted ceiling atrium that encourages people to explore, congregate and connect. Altogether, I think this will create a feeling of community and openness that speaks to the spirit of the La Taqueria restaurant group.
As of publication, La Taqueria plans to close its old East Hastings location during the summer and reopen their revamped version down the street within the same week. But there is also a second part to this story, which we are beyond stoked for: although the 255 East Hastings address will be redeveloped at some point in the next few years, in the meantime, the taqueria’s cocktail-forward sister restaurant, Chupito / Cantina 189, will expand to take over the old La Taqueria space.
Stay tuned for updates (and have a peek at the photos below while you wait for opening day…)