I’m always more critical of Latin American restaurants than any other type of cuisine. It’s not because I grew up in a family where food was celebrated and the standards were always exceptionally high; it’s not because one of my uncles is a respected red-seal executive chef; it’s not because my mother is a revered chef who’s earned many awards for her Latin American cuisine and I grew up eating that food every day; no, it’s not for any of those reasons. It’s only because I want to see them succeed. I feel a personal connection with “my people” and I have a sincere desire to help them improve. Sure, growing up around so much incredible food has heightened my awareness, refined my palate and unavoidably elevated my standards. But I’m also well aware that imposing those lofty standards on anyone else would be setting my expectations way too high. That said, while I do relax my standards and set out to not be hypercritical, it’s still nevertheless very difficult to accept less than perfection when you’re so passionate about something.
After such a long introduction, I should probably get on with it and say that I really like Mi Pueblo and I find it hard to come up with anything negative to say about the place. (Other than small nit-picking here and there.) Maybe that’s saying something…
I can’t remember how, or exactly when I was first introduced to Mi Pueblo, but I remember it was more than eleven years ago (back in 1998 or 1999). Yes, they’ve been around for quite a while, but when you taste their pupusas, it’s easy to understand why.
I recently went back to Mi Pueblo after more than six years and I was very happy to see that over the years, rather than getting too comfortable and settling for mediocrity like I see so many places do, they’ve actually made numerous improvements and continue to move forward!
The decor of the restaurant is neutral, very inviting and very tastefully done. I hate how so many Latin American restaurants think they have to try to be Mexican, and think they have to be so colorful and neon and ‘gross’ with their decor. Such is not the case at Mi Pueblo. It has a very homey and family feel to it, and in fact, you feel like you are actually in their small town. (“Mi pueblo” in Spanish means “my town”.)
This is the kind of place I could take my non-hispanic friends to – a great place to introduce them to Latin American cuisine and feel proud about it instead of feeling the need to make excuses… Atypical of Latin American Restaurants, Mi Pueblo actually seems to have a consistent theme with their decor – the tables all match, the chairs all match, the walls are painted a nice shade of brown, the china and cutlery all match – everything works well together and compliments the beautiful laid-back atmosphere. Nicely done!
Enough about the decor though, the food is the real reason I went, and that didn’t let me down at all either.
I started by ordering one of the Chicken Tamales. I’ve had a big craving for tamales lately and Michelle and I have been toying with the idea of making some at home. (They’re a lot of work.) While their chicken tamales aren’t anywhere close to as good as the ones we used to make for sale in Calgary, it was still a very good tamale, and it definitely satisfied my craving. (At least temporarily.)
Every country in Latin America has their own version of tamales, and every province, city and town has their own way of making them too. Maybe even every family. They vary quite a bit.
The chicken tamales at Mi Pueblo were typical of tamales from El Salvador, but it was also the first time I’ve had these kind of tamales with cilantro in them. I could also taste a stronger than normal presence of green pepper (as if they were fire roasted and then blended into the corn flour) but both were very welcome additions. In fact, Michelle and I have thought about incorporating these ideas into our own tamales when we actually get around to making them.
Being the glutton that I am, I also ordered a Sopa de Res (beef soup) to preface the pupusas – it was prepared very traditionally and was exceptionally delicious. It was a very large portion of soup (typical) and they were surprisingly very generous with the meat and vegetable ingredients too.
Of course, you can’t go to Mi Pueblo without ordering some Pupusas – or at least, that’s always been my main attraction to the place.
Apparently I’ve gotten used to the tiny pupusas you find in Calgary, (under the excuse that smaller pupusas are the only way you can keep them profitable) because I found the pupusas at Mi Pueblo to be quite large for the $2.50 price. They’re also super generous with the fillings (cheese with loroco, chicharrón, squash, beans, or revueltas/mixed). Overall, I was very impressed with not only the portion size, but also the quality of the ingredients and their preparation. Very well done.
In terms of the curtido and tomato sauce, they were nothing spectacular but it’s worth mentioning that the portion we were served (extra charge if you want more) was much more than enough for the pupusas we ordered. In El Salvador when you go to a Pupuseria, the curtido and tomato sauce are already on the table and are unlimited, but the concept of portioning them and charging extra for more is very common in USA and Canada. They’re just condiments, so to me it’s like charging extra if you want more ketchup, but I understand that a lot of people abuse this to the point that it makes it hard for restaurants to remain profitable.
The pupusas at Mi Pueblo are some of the best I’ve had in Canada (outside of my own family, of course) but even more impressive is how well they’re priced…
Lunch for two people came out to $32 including 13% HST and that turned out to be more food than we could finish. (Apart from the tamale, soup and six pupusas, we also ordered two drinks.)
Like I mentioned, there’s so much they’re doing right at Mi Pueblo that it’s hard to find anything negative to say. Being very picky though, there are a couple things I can mention… The bathrooms are in need of a reno, my horchata was a little too sweet, and I personally don’t like getting curtido or tomato sauce in styrofoam containers – having some kind of stone or ceramic containers for these would be much better. But again, I’m being super picky here.
Mi Pueblo Restaurante
20 Bradstock Road
+1 (416) 744-4127