Guest Post on New Westminster’s Taqueria Playa Tropical

A guest post today from a frequent reader, Ms Kelsey Keller who has a Delightfully Inappropriate blog of her own.

Admittedly, my sweetheart and I always say it’s our goal to support small local restaurants instead of massive chain ones, and yet we always seem to end up at a chain restaurant. We are drawn in by the mediocre but consistent fare (consistency being a must have with picky toddler in tow) and ‘perks’ like colouring pages and booster-seats that make dining with a ticking time bomb slightly less daunting. On the drive home, I inquire about sweetheart’s meal, to which he frequently replies “meh”. It’s not perfect, but it’s become habit.

About a month ago a friend of mine sent me a text message:

“OMG (yes, It says OMG, get over it!). BEST Mexican food ever. Tacos for $1.50. Authentic too, like a little Mexican greasy spoon. We MUST go! Seriously, soon!”

So, I texted her back with some scathing ‘zing’ about writing ‘OMG’, and inquired about the taqueria in more detail.

A month later I DREAM of tacos for dinner, my insanely picky toddler eagerly asks when we can go for ‘Mexican bread’ (tortillas) again, and my husband winks at me and comments on how it WAS our New Years resolution to support local business. We pile into our family car and drive the 5 minutes to our new favourite restaurant.

Taqueria Playa Tropical. 334- 6th Street?New Westminster. (604) 544-5006.

sign outside
sign outside
Restaurant view
Restaurant view

The signage outside is bright, but unassuming and I’d wager that most people would walk right by. A quick glance inside may not recommend it to prospective customers either. It’s a small space, painted brightly. The floor is covered with two different colours of laminate flooring, the tables are mix matched and unceremoniously wrapped in tan vinyl, and the chairs are a collection of ‘garage sale’ finds. It’s not fancy, but it is oddly inviting. There is something welcoming about its simplicity, and something familiar in its anti-cookie-cutter décor.

Sweetheart, Miss K (my toddler), and I sit down to eat. We are starving! We sit and wait for our server. We wait. We wait. We wait. This place certainly runs on ‘Mexican time’. Our server comes over, offers us some crunchy tortilla chips, two salsas in bottles marked in an amusingly low budget way, and takes our drink order.

Mild Sauce
Mild Sauce

We inhale the chips and agree they are delicious. Our server comes back with our drinks. They are served in ‘cafeteria style’ plastic glasses that are tall and durable. We order our food. Tacos. LOTS of tacos. The tacos are after all what my friend was raving about. Chicken tacos, steak tacos, shrimp tacos, fish tacos, two types of pork tacos, and vegetarian (bean) tacos. We order one of each to get a feel for what we like. Each of them is delicious and we each order another plate of assorted tacos. Again we are impressed. They are dainty, three bite tacos but each packs a flavorful punch. Each contains a protein, cheese, veggie (onion, pepper and/or tomato) and condiment (sour cream, avocado and/or salsa). They taste authentically Mexican and remind me of a teeny taco cart we ate from while in Cancun. Sweetheart orders an additional plate of steak and shrimp tacos, and I opt for a plate of chicken and bean tacos. We inhale!

taco plate
taco plate

Our server continues with the slow service even though there are only two tables of guests, one of which we occupy. Her engaging smile coupled with the delicious tacos she brings us, drive away any annoyance with the slow speed though. In fact, we embrace the unhurried pace and start to luxuriate in it. We enjoy the rare opportunity to nibble, chat, and enjoy being together in a stress-free way. Miss K dances to the easy rock sung in Spanish, and we have an enjoyable meal. Our server comes and dances with an enthusiastic Miss K who squeals with delight, and we order more tacos. We exhale and settle even more deeply into the leisurely pace. This place is starting to feel like ‘home’, minus the need to cook and dirty dishes in the sink.

Our server returns with yet another plate of tacos, and I ask about the specifics of the place. She tells me it opened on “ Cinqo de Mayo, that means May 5th in Spanish” and that while the owners (her parents) are from Ecuador, the chefs are from Mexico. We chat about how business is starting to pick up, and how they are hopeful the liquor license will be approved soon. We all nod in agreement about how an ice-cold beer would be icing on the cake. The server goes on to tell us how they are coming out with a new, and bigger, menu in the next few weeks that will include more tacos choices, as well as sides, soups, and deserts. She also tells us, with a wink, that they do take out too in case the kids (I also have a 7 week old) are asleep but we are desperate for tacos. I smile realizing that she is trying to put the hard sell on us, even though we are already hopelessly hooked!

We flag down our server one last time and request the bill. I notice sweetheart cringe as it arrives, a symptom of the chain-restaurant price tag we are accustomed to, and then he smiles. “That’s it?” he asks, “Yup, great food, great prices” our server quips as if she is part of a cheesy TV commercial. We pay the bill, which seems disproportionately small for the amount of food we inhaled, and head out the door. We get a few steps out the door and Miss K asks “more tacos again tomorrow mommy?” I’d hate to disappoint her adorable request, and am secretly pleased to have an excuse to indulge again so soon.

Kelsey is a self proclaimed ‘very amateur blogger’. When she isn’t fumbling through attempts at blogging, she is a mother of two (Miss K who is 2, and Bun who is 8 weeks old), a teacher, a wife, and quite possibly the most ‘domestically challenged’ person ever. She resides in New Westminster but can frequently be found daydreaming herself to more exotic locations.