382 W. Broadway
l’d say that I was among the early birds several months back to spot the disappearance of the former tenant at this location (that served horrible pho) and the pending notice that Chronic Tacos was going to set up shop – mainly due to the fact that I pass this Cambie/W. Broadway corridor very often. As a result, I kept making a mental note to stop in once things got up and running, which I did hear about from a loyal reader when they themselves passed through their open doors. A further few weeks passed since that heads up but I finally made my way in on a recent Sunday afternoon. Coincidentally, as it was just past the 2pm local time kickoffs for several NFL matches, the place was rocking inside and all tables were occupied, which led me to understand that this joint has a serious sports bar vibe and relevant customers (many decked out in the uniforms of their favorite teams). I thought this was interesting, not assuming the proprietors would take this angle, but it sure has proven to be a success judging by the boisterous room. While glancing at some screens to get updated on the scores (I happened to be listening to the Seahawks game on the radio on my drive over), I made my way to the very back where the ordering and prep counter is situated. I didn’t bother to check, but I don’t think there is any table service here, which one might expect given how busy the place was upon setting foot inside and how the seating layout was designed.
With no intentions of dining alone inside – not that there was even a single free chair – I got my order to go. A few signs on the walls and a menu board are posted up high and are quite visible, and given its a fast food-type of place, its not rocket science to decide what you want and the choices run the usual gamut of popular North Americanized (despite the claims of authentic Mexican recipes) items such as burritos, the hilariously named “fatty” tacos (in reference to the whole chronic thing – “whatup Dr. Dre!”), and other assortments such as nachos and quesadillas. I’m sure their website would reveal more history and the rationale behind the name, so will leave that to you to delve into and I won’t regurgitate anything here (urgh, that’s a really bad word to use when writing about food, but so be it!).
I was up for sampling two of these tacos given I was catching the scene at an odd hour, too late for lunch and not wanting to spoil my dinner plans for later. Scanning the boards and getting the casual head nods from one of the young staffers behind the glass, to acknowledge that I needed a minute to figure things out – I ended up going with the chicken and fish (grilled, not battered and deep fried). Since the chicken was already pre-cooked/pre-made and sitting in a plastic container on the counter, a few minutes passed while we waited for the fish to grill before he started the first stage of assembly. I took this time to take in the rest of the crew – a seemingly younger twenty-something rat pack, on appearances alone (going by the fashion styles, haircuts and visible tattoos) its obvious they are sticking with the chill thematic even with their staff. Again, quite appropriate for the whole chronic take on things, but I suppose more conservative folks might find this off-putting, as these are not the fellow you see usually working at the other fast food places around town.
Don’t judge the book by its cover as they say, as the two fellows I interacted with were quite friendly and loose, and quite helpful once things got onto the wrapping sheets and I looked down to see what toppings could be had. It reminded me of my first encounters with Canadian friends who joined the Northern California surf scene of the mid-1990’s, kinda outcasts but a real positive crew. For the fish, my assembler recommended a certain combination (he ripped off a butchered Spanish word that I’m drawing a blank on as I type this), but it involved a hit of fresh lime and cilantro. I apologize for the degradation that occurred as a result of the transport in the images that follow. I might add, there was a lot of leaching of moisture from some of the ingredients like the tomato salsa that made things quite messy as I began to eat.
Adding in a few other veggies and a dash of some hot sauce, this was wrapped up quite quickly. Deconstructed (or rather opened up after I took a bite), it looked as so:
The fish itself had some distinct flavor to it, a sort of smoky element. Having been grilled rather than enveloped into some crispy coating, my guess is that you can get a better sense of the quality of the fish used as a result – much like I experienced at Papalote in San Fran last month, although theirs was more chunkier and not adorned with such seasoning. Sandwiched between two slightly over-sized tortillas, I rather liked this particular one, although next time I think I’ll hold back on some of the other toppings like the lettuce that really didn’t add much (an error I made at Papalote as well).
The chicken had been treated with some cheese topping as well, based on the recommendation of my handler.
In a sentence, I’d say I wasn’t exactly blown away by the flavoring (bland really) of the chicken itself, that looked more like little hacked off bits, almost looking like a finely scrambled egg if you will. Eating a few pieces on their own, I felt the seasoning was lacking and perhaps having been sitting in a container, they were dried out. Not a winner, I wonder if the pulled pork is anything similar. If I happen to be in the ‘hood again, I might give it a shot just for comparisons sake one day down the road. I can’t say at this point Chronic Tacos is a huge draw for me. Not really at a level that would pull me back for more if I had the choice (and certainly other places around town that are still on my hit list for this website). I’m sure everyone has their say on the best (and at least as close as possible to anything resembling authentic Mexican tacos) place in town for this type of fast food, so will leave it at that and hopefully get some feedback on the other places that I’m aware of but have yet to check out…