10 Alt Tacos (and 3 almost Tacos) to Try

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by Andrew Coppolino | May 2021

The Uptown Waterloo Taco Trail is on! An initiative of the Uptown Waterloo BIA, the Trail is “an interactive food trail” highlighting the world of tacos in the city centre.

However, throughout the Region, tacos rule – and not only on “Taco Tuesdays.” From both restaurants that traditionally serve Mexican and Central American fare to casual upscale restaurants, tacos are likely one of the top handful of requested dishes when diners are looking for a simple but delicious handheld street food (the popular Waterloo Region Tacofest is an annual celebration of our phenomenal local restaurant and brewery scene – and most years tickets sell out within hours of going on sale).

Looking for a fresh fold on the humble taco? We’ve put together a list of “alternative” tacos that hold the meat and amp up the vegetarian and plant-based flavours.

Vegetarian and Plant-Based Tacos

Beertown Public House, Cambridge
Plant-based chick’n taco that features Tijuana-fried “chick’n” tacos with tequila-pineapple salsa, guacamole, toasted tortillas, a habanero-lime aïoli, cilantro and scallions.

Latinoamerica Unida, Cambridge
There’s a Burrito Veggie on the menu, but the kitchen will create a veggie taco salad for you: try it with the cactus, refried beans, sour cream, onion, tomatoes, Mozzarella and their special Mexican sauce.

Thirteen Food and Beverage, Cambridge
Redolent of old-school beer-hall battered mushrooms – but much better! – 13 FnB prepares vegan mushroom tacos with battered and deep-fried mushrooms, hoisin, spicy miso-tofu mayo drizzle, lettuce, pickled carrots and onion.

White Rabbit, Waterloo
Chef Andrew Beckford exhibits considerable skill (and has a lot of fun) combining and recombining ingredients and flavours. He’s currently putting together “Jerk Tofu Tacos” with corn and black bean salsa, guacamole, cabbage, pico de gallo and cilantro.

The Guanaquita Restaurant, Kitchener
The Mexican taco gets a bit of Salvadoran tweaking at The Guanaquita, including vegetarian and vegan options. Fillings include radish, quacamole sauce and sour cream with chimol (a pico de gallo with radish). You can enjoy them with either yellow or white corn tortillas. Taco platters include salsa and beans and rice.

Taco Farm Co., Waterloo
Taco is in their name, and they brought a new perspective to the tasty morsel with their interpretation of the Central American classic. From the menu, you could select one of three taco bowls that start with buffalo cauliflower – to which can be added rice, iceberg lettuce, frijoles refritos, chili-garlic sauce, guacamole and pineapple salsa.

Copper Branch, Waterloo
For a limited time, try out the organic Tacos Pura Vida, made on a unique cactus tortilla and packed with black beans, vegan “cheeze, salsa and a southwest sauce.

Ethel’s Lounge, Waterloo
The “Anytime Beans Taco Box” is, as its name alludes to, available daily. Build your own bean taco box that starts with Ethel’s refried beans as the base for cheese, lettuce, your choice of side and 12 taco shells.

Borealis Grille & Bar, Kitchener
Just about the best place to find responsibly sourced, sustainable and delicious ingredients, Borealis serves a veggie taco with a unique chickpea falafel, pickled onions, lettuce, cilantro sour cream and goat cheese.

Pupuseria Latinos, Kitchener
It’s a Salvadoran spot that’s a favourite for pupusas and Central American breakfast, but they also serve up veggie tacos.

 Almost tacos!

Okay, so that not exactly tacos, but these dishes either riff on the transportation-to-your-mouth method of the taco – some sort of wrapper, often folded, that holds delicious ingredients –- or their wide-ranging flavours.

Here are three “near tacos” to contemplate.

Ernie’s Roadhouse, Cambridge
Nachos are, in a way, deconstructed tacos: Ernie’s “Everything but the Kitchen Sink Nachos” are baked with mixed cheese, tomatoes, onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, black olives, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. So, it’s a really messed-up taco!

Chopped Leaf, Kitchener and Waterloo
Their veggie quesadilla certainly qualifies as an almost taco: red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, red onions, sun-dried cranberries, Mozzarella and Cheddar.

Wildcraft Long Bar, Waterloo
Think of the doughy bao as a really thick tortilla: Sichuan chick’n bao is plant-based steam buns — light, fluffy morsels enveloping chick’n marinated in five-spice hoisin sauce and roasted. The crisp pieces are accompanied by green-mango slaw, scallions and gochujang, the fermented Korean red-chili paste.

Wildcraft’s Chick’n Bao


Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


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