Eating interesting and authentic foreign cuisine doesn't have to break the bank. A lot of foods which best embody a culture are found on the busy streets of their country of origin, and are generally inexpensive. Cartel Street Food Bar, located in the Mile End, embraces the street eats of Mexican and Peruvian creole cultures in its menu, with delicious results. Housing a fully stocked bar (with original cocktails) and great daily deals, Cartel is a perfect tapas style bar where you can eat a lot of cool new foods, and even some twists on North American dishes, like poutine.
The focus of Cartel's cuisine is authentic taqueria and chifa foods. Taqueria, as the name hints, is a Mexican food style serving dishes like tacos. Chifa refers to Peruvian cuisine that sprung from Chinese influences. The combination of Mexican and Peruvian-Asian dishes may seem strange, but only to those who haven't eaten Cartel's delicious and popular street eats.
Cartel's fish tacos are a big hit for good reason. Prepared in a Baja Californian style, a large piece of white fish is lightly breaded, fried, and then placed in a white flour tortilla. Placed inside to give some spice and texture is a homemade red sauce and Mexican cream with cabbage. Tender and zesty, Cartel's fish tacos quickly took a place in my personal ranking of best tacos in the city.
A little more off the taco-beaten track are the Pe King Duck tacos. Taking inspiration from the classic Asian dish, the Pe King duck tacos are filled with duck breast flavoured with a sweet sauce. The duck filling in these tacos tasted great, an authentic recreation of the original dish, but I found the tortillas to be a little too crumbly. I didn't have the same problem with the fish tacos, so this could have been just bad tortilla luck. Either way, the Pe King Duck tacos are a cool spin on a traditional dish.
Great as a shared plate is the Muay Thai grilled chicken. You can find similar eats at a Muay Thai kickboxing match in Thailand. Darkly grilled to attain a crunchy texture with a smokey flavour, the chicken paired very nicely with a passion fruit dipping sauce served alongside. Sweet and smokey, the Muay Thai chicken is a great plate to share among friends.
The great part about Cartel is the communal aspect of most of the dishes, if you choose to share. A bunch of different dishes can be ordered and everyone can have fun trying things out. Or, you can just order for yourself and not have too spend too much. If you're on the go, Cartel even has its own food truck serving out a lot of the dishes I got to try. With amazing daily deals (Monday night 2 for 1 drinks, Tuesday two dollar tacos? Hellz yes) you can eat cool new foods with friends and not have to keep your eye on the tab.