If you’re looking for great Mexican food, a restaurant just off Whyte Avenue is what you need. El Cortez Tequila Bar and Kitchen provides great food, a relaxing atmosphere and a plethora of amazing cocktails, just like Mexico.
Let’s start off with the décor. El Cortez’s upstairs has a very laid back feel to it. There are lots of different places to sit, the staff is warm and welcoming and there is Santeria themed art throughout. It succeeds at maintaining a Spanish vibe without tokenizing Mexican culture, which is a seemingly recurring theme with Mexican restaurants. The lower level has a club vibe, which is where you would go to walk around and mingle and, trust me, you’ll want to. I visited El Cortez on New Year’s Eve as well and the place was littered with beautiful women. The bathroom looks like you just stepped into Mexican hell. The walls have all kinds of twisted pictures on them, the only light in the room is red and the mirror is shattered, surrounding this big wooden cross. As far as look and atmosphere go, El Cortez is arguably the most inviting and fun Mexican themed place I’ve ever been to.
Delivers on food
But as we all know we don’t go to a restaurant to look at the walls and shit in a crazy bathroom. It’s really about the food and, puta madre, does this place deliver! Our meal started off with several orders of appetizers, none of which were disappointing. The first dish to arrive was our Valentina’s fried cauliflower, which is cauliflower dipped in this spicy sauce with a bowl of cheese sauce on the side. I don’t like cauliflower but these sauces give it exactly what it needs, an intense rush of flavour that isn’t over powering. It floods your taste buds without drowning them. Next up were the Carne Asada fries, which are served in a basket mixed with beef, cheese, pico de galle, guacamole and sour cream. Think of it as Mexican poutine, which is actually better than Canadian poutine. Again this dish hit the nail right on the head – big flavour and just enough of it. The quesadillas were delicious as well. These bad boys were stuffed with sautéed peppers, caramelized onions, jalapenos, cheese and short rib. ¡Qué fuerte! I don’t handle spicy food but we had no problem with our appetizers. They each offered the right amount of heat to please both the vatos and panochas in your group.
For my main course, I indulged in the Las Hamburguesas, which is really just a hamburger topped with guacamole, Valentina mayonnaise, jalapeño Havarti cheese, bacon and sautéed sweet peppers. They serve it on a soft bun and the patty is nice and thick. All in all, it was an awesome burger and stayed together despite the amount of spice and sauces in it. I do kind of regret my decision, though. Great burger but I’m willing to bet this place has better entrées.
Of course, no trip to a tequila bar would be complete without drinking several tequila based drinks. I started with their El Temblorsita pitcher, a 6 oz. cocktail made with tequila, basil syrup, strawberry puree, lemon juice and aloe vera water. I drank most of the pitcher, which was sweet but the tequila helped mask the sweetness, another great blend of flavour. The Tommy’s margarita is mixed with lime juice, agave nectar, black pepper bitters and egg white and this one was very soothing on the tongue. It went down smooth and stayed on my taste buds but didn’t have what I call an aftertaste. I also had the La Paloma, a grapefruit based cocktail and a Blood Orange Margarita. I was feeling good when I left.
So if you dig the Mexicano vibe, I highly recommend you check this place out. It has all the necessary components of an awesome restaurant as well as an awesome bar. The serving staff are great, the cooks know what they’re doing and the vibe is nice and mellow … like being drunk on tequila. You can find El Cortrez on Gateway Boulevard and 83 Avenue. You can
also check out their website – which is also very dope!
By QUINTON BERGER