This location has closed since the writing of this post.
I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, let me put that out there before you read on about Cafe Del Sol. I enjoy the standard Tex-Mex, and know what I like. I’ve had a few tacos in California, heck I’ve had some tacos in Varadero and Cancun that were outside of the tourist area, but nothing has ever jumped out at me and screamed, “eat me again!” Tres Carnales, Edmonton’s most beloved Latin American restaurant needs no introduction and is probably the reason why I’ve never done a post on it. They are the closest that I’ve come to a taco (or likewise) that I’d return over and over again to eat. Avenue Edmonton’s Best Restaurants of 2014 runner-up in the category was Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse (maybe one day I’ll fork over the $50 AYCE meal), and their honorable mention was Cafe Del Sol. A couple of weeks ago, Jody, equipped with a Groupon, invited me out to try the family owned restaurant a few weeks ago.
We arrived at 6:30pm on a Wednesday night. The restaurant was a third filled and was eerily silent. A few minutes into our experience though, some Latin American tunes started up. Awkward… was it completely quiet before we came? The room was brightly painted though, with the Mexican flag running over top the tables. A home-y feel to it.
Our Groupon offered us two drinks, one appetizer, and two entrees for the night. For drinks, you can’t go wrong with Jarritos, a popular Mexican brand of carbonated drinks. The mandarin flavor is one of my favorites!
Jody chose the choriqueso as our appetizer to share. I was expecting a lot more chorizo even though the menu said it was crumbled and topped with melted cheese. Warm tortillas accompanied the dish to make it a DIY wrap kind of appetizer. It wasn’t fantastic, but there wasn’t anything wrong with it either. I would have expected the chorizo to be a lot spicier but it wasn’t. Somehow every flavor blended in together so that nothing stood out.
Our main dish consisted of a variety of tacos. The dish itself allows you to choose four tacos of any kind: Al Pastor (marinated pork), Barbacoa (braised beef), Pollo Tinga (chipotle chicken and fried onions), Carnita (slow roasted pork), Chorizo (house made sausage), or Carne Asada (thinly sliced AAA beef). Because we had a Groupon, we were told that we were limited to choosing two kinds and would receive two tacos of each kind. Any more would be extra charge. Jody nodded and proceeded to order one of each. Wait Jody! That’s twelve tacos, you want twelve tacos?! It was pretty funny once we sorted it all out. We ended up ordering the Pollo Tinga, Carne Asada, and Al Pastor to try. It came out with either a side of freshly made guacamole, rice, or beans. We chose the guacamole, which by far was the tastiest thing on the plate. I was so confused! This place has some great reviews from Urbanspoon and Yelp. Did we go to the same restaurant? The tacos ended up being on the dry side without any toppings, and the meat (all kinds) were dry when I tasted without the tacos. Edible… but sad face! At least it came with onions and freshly chopped cilantro.
The beef birria was a dish of Angus beef, slow cooked in a broth of tomatoes and Mexican spices and chili. This dish was by far my favorite of the night, impossible to be dry since it was served in its own sauce. By this time I was tortilla’d out. They’re quite filling! And unless you fill up the tacos with meat and salsa and guacamole, you’re just getting a mouthful of tortilla.
Service was a bit slow and I only saw one person in the kitchen that night and one up front. Short staffed a possibility for our “meh” meal? We came with high expectations though, thinking we’d find a hidden gem in Edmonton’s north side. Being an honorable mention in Avenue’s list had set our hopes up. Was it bad? No. Was it good? Not our meal that night, no. Everything could have used more flavor (not salt, flavor) and the chorizo could have packed more heat. Some tortillas were blackened, which makes me believe they’re not cleaning up their grills when reheating them. Nobody wants that! Price wise though, it’s a good deal even without the Groupon. When we tried to call to make a reservation, nobody answered the phone (… times that by 3, over the first half hour of opening). There’s also times where I find that as soon as they know you have a Groupon, the quality or service just drastically declines. I rarely buy Groupons anymore for that reason. I’d try Cafe Del Sol again though if given the opportunity. Here’s hoping to next time!
Cafe Del Sol
6502 – 132 Avenue