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Campechano’s sister spot has a Trump-baiting name, an industrial tortilla machine and flawlessly simple tacos
Good Hombres (374 Bathurst, at Nassau, 416-862-0425) is the answer to a question chef Daniel Roe has been hearing for two years at his Adelaide taqueria, Campechano: “Where can I buy these amazing tortillas?”
Since Campechano opened its doors in 2016, Roe and his staff have been laboriously pressing and grilling tortillas to order, taco by taco by taco. Though they would frequently field requests from customers to take home a bag, or for larger wholesale orders from other restaurants, the tiny kitchen and streamlined operation meant they could only make enough to fuel the restaurant.
“The genesis of [Good Hombres] was that so many people want good tortillas, and there aren’t great nixtamal tortillas in the city,” explains Raena Fisher, Roe’s partner.
They gave their new tortilleria a name that had been bounced between Fisher, Roe and their third business partner in Mexico ever since Donald Trump made a remark about stopping “bad hombres” in Mexico in February 2017. (Yes, that was only last year. And, yes, I feel like I’ve aged a decade since then, too.)
When asked to explain the connection, Roe and Fisher are a little more coy. “We were joking around about the narrative that exists around Mexicans today, the ‘bad hombre,’ and we were joking that we should open ‘Good Hombres.’ And it stuck – we always came back to this name,” Fisher says. “In the face of that narrative, we wanted to celebrate the wonderful things that come from Mexico. And corn is the foundation of Mexican cuisine.”
To put the wheels in motion on their tortilla production plans, they imported and upgraded a 14-foot tortilla machine, which makes for a striking (and squeaky) presence at the front of the long, narrow shop.
They also brought up sacks of corn kernels from Mexico, which get made into masa dough through a process called nixtamalization: corn is cooked with an alkaline substance, which breaks down the corn and, according to Fisher, opens up the flavour profile and the nutritional value. “That’s the first thing you can buy, if you want, to make your own tortillas – or pupusas or sopes or tamales.”
A few times per hour, Roe feeds a ball of masa into the top of the machine, which rolls, cuts and presses rounds of dough before sending them on a zigzagging conveyor-belt ride into the belly of the machine, eventually spitting out toasty, fresh tortillas, available 12 to a bag for $5.
But though tortillas are the driving force behind the business, so far, most of the folks lining the takeout counter are there for a different reason: Good Hombres’ taco menu, which features nine options for $3.75 a pop.
“They’re, like, insanely simple,” says Roe of the tacos, which differ in recipe and size from the beefier, slightly more elaborate selections at Campechano. Each one is limited to an ultra-fresh grilled or braised protein and a house-made sauce, maybe with a sprinkle of onion and a squeeze of lime here or there.
“It’s the way tacos are in Mexico. There’s nothing to it. The hardest thing to do is make the tortillas.”
And by the way, those tortillas are unlike any I’ve ever had: warm, pliable, gently elastic. They don’t break mid-bite, get soggy or go all mealy in your mouth. It’s the kind of tortilla you can really put your faith in.
Here’s a closer look at the menu:
The carne asada (right) is made from thinly sliced strip loin grilled with salt and pepper and topped with tomatillo salsa. Its counterpart, the bistec (left), is top sirloin marinated with chile ancho, guajillo and morita chiles, plus a salsa macha made with oil, garlic and more chiles.
Roe describes the fish taco (left) as a “classic Baja fish” featuring beer-battered haddock, pico de gallo, lettuce and avocado sauce. The grilled chicken (right) is marinated in garlic, lime and oregano and topped with a different spin on salsa macha made with ancho and cascabels.
One vegetarian option is the taco topped with chopped grilled shishitos, cheese and black beans (right), while the rajas poblanas (left), featuring sliced poblano peppers, is completely vegan.
There are no sides or sweets – yet – but you can wash your tacos down with cans of Jumex or housemade aguas frescas, including jamaica, a sweet hibiscus drink.
The painted window outside the shop — in case you’re not sure you’re in the right place.
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