Playa Cabana Cantina – Tacos in the Junction

Playa Cabana located on Dupont St. has been rated the city’s best taco and they recently opened up another restaurant, Playa Cabana Cantina, in the Junction.  Ryan and I love tacos and so we had to go test them out on our recent excursion to the Junction.  There is a great vibe inside the restaurant; the decor seemed very authentic with its bright neon signs…much better than other over-the-top, tackily decorated restaurants I’ve been to with cactuses and sombreros!  There was a great bar area too!

Once again, Ryan and I found ourselves not being able to decide which tacos to order, so we opted to share.  Ryan got the Ancho braised shortrib-brisket crispy tacos (AAA Ontario Beef shortrib braised in ancho chiles wrapped in fresh corn tortillas and griddled to a golden crispiness – served with pico de gallo, guac and homemade crema) and I ordered tacos de pollo al carbon (guajillo-chipotle marinated free range chicken grilled over coals with fresh mango salsa).  The beef tacos had a crispy shell and were really good, the shell flakes away as you bite into the tacos making them messy to eat, but worth it!  On the other hand, boy did my tacos look sad!!  My plate was so meager and empty.  My tacos were very spicy but had little flavour and I didn’t realize that “mango salsa” meant two little matchsticks of fresh mango.  They were very disappointing.

Crispy Ancho braised shortrib-brisket tacos

The very empty & sad looking tacos de pollo al carbon — the rice outshone the tacos! 🙁

Just a word of caution about corn tortilla chips at Mexican restaurants: never assume they are gluten free simply because they are made of corn.  Often when they are homemade, the tortilla chips are deep fried in the same fryer that is used for battered foods making the chips contaminated with gluten.  The chips at Playa Cabana Cantina were made in house and fried in the same fryer so they were not gluten free (meaning that I had to pass on the guac).  I wonder if I asked ahead of time to bring my own tortilla chips if they would allow me, maybe I’ll try that next time.

Since we had just gone to Milagro Cantina a month ago, it was an easy comparison between the two.  Both of us agreed that we liked the tacos at Milagro better as their fillings were more flavourful and overflowing.  Plus, I really liked that I was able to eat the guac with cucumbers at Milagro.  However, if you’re looking for a good drink and a wicked atmosphere Ryan liked the margaritas at Playa better.  We also ordered flan at Playa Cabana Cantina as a dessert and wow it was out of this world!  So hmm… how do we somehow manage to combine the best of both restaurants to make one super fantastic taco place?

Personally, I’m going to give Playa the benefit of the doubt and think that they just skimped on our serving.  Eventually, I’ll have to go back again to give their food another chance, but next time I think I’ll try the enchiladas and tacos al pastor instead.

The star of the meal — FLAN!! It was so light and creamy.

Playa Cabana Cantina
2883 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON