You don't have to fall for the Tex-Mex hybrid. There's authentic Mexican food in all corners of T.O.
DOS AMIGOS (1201 Bathurst, at Bridgman, 416-534-2528) At first it might seem like the middle of nowhere, but Dos Amigos's location caters to the nearby Tarragon Theatre crowd and Annex types. First-timers will find the food incredibly bland unless they ask the chef to cook everything full-strength. Expect intensity of flavours, not fire. Best: Pollo con Mole, a chicken breast in a deliciously rich sauce laced with garlic and crushed pumpkin seeds; pineapple-marinated pork in Tacos al Pastor, with two homemade hot sauces; Vera Cruz-style red snapper in a tasty lemon-garlic sauce laced with green olives; addictive caramel flan. Complete dinners for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of beer. Open for dinner Sunday to Thursday 5 to 10:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Bar open till midnight. Fully licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
EL JACALITO (9 Milvan, at Finch West, 416-894-7801) Forget the margaritas from a mix and the Tex-Mex approximations that pass for Mexican food in the Great White North. This unassuming stall in an industrial-court-turned-Latino-plaza offers fare that's far from haute but definitely hot! Best: Carne Diablo, a thin flank steak smothered in an incendiary purée of smoky achiote sauce and chipotle, sided with black refried beans, rice and iceberg-cilantro salad; slow-roasted pork -- Conchinita Pibil -- spiked with chilies and slightly soured with vinegar; deep-fried tortilla-wrapped Flautas stuffed with shredded chicken breast; a stellar hot sauce dubbed Tomorrow whose name becomes clear mañana; hangover cure Pozole soup with hominy; soothing caramel Flan Napolitano and Arroz con Leche rice pudding for dessert. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 8:30 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: four steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
EL SOL (1448 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-405-8074) Decked out in folk art, this family-run cantina is easily the best in town, serving way-south-of-the-border fare. Warm service, casual digs and made-to-order, authentic northern Mexican grub push El Sol several notches above its competitors. Best: 65-spice Pollo En Mole, chicken breast in an ethereal hot-chili-and-dark-chocolate sauce, sided with roasted tomato rice and flavour-intense, slow-cooked refried beans; egg-battered Chile Relleno, a huge sweet red pepper stuffed with ground beef, green olives, cubed potato and raisins in pulpy tomato sauce; super chili-spiked salsa. Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of beer. Open Tuesday to Sunday 3 to 11 pm. Closed Monday. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN SD
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