Since it opened last month, El Caballito has become an after-work hotspot for Toronto young professionals (YPs). Primarily a tequila bar, El Caballito (which means the little horse in Spanish) offers a refreshing new option to its neighbouring tired, tourist-filled spots in the heart of theatre district and to the suit-saturated venues to the east. We admit that upon hearing about it we questioned whether the city really needed another Mexican place. But there is something a little different about El Caballito. Owned and operated by fellow Toronto young professionals, here’s why the spot – which identifies as a bar first and foremost – has become a quick YP favourite…
The tequila. Enough said.
El Caballito marks downtown Toronto’s first tequila bar, complete with a private tequila tasting room that can be booked in advance. It offers an extensive tequila list that includes 64 quality blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas and mezcals by the ounce, served in a caballito – a slender shot glass traditionally used to serve tequila. It also features 12 tequilas and mezcals as “Servicio Tequilero,” allowing guests to enjoy tequila family-style (AKA. bottle service). The exclusive tequila tasting experience (perfect for an interactive client activity or night out with the guys or ladies) has been created for small groups to taste and learn about some of Mexico’s finest tequilas and mescals. Because when it involves an educational experience, you don’t feel as guilty for indulging…(right?).
You feel like a local.
The space itself is designed to make you feel like a local once you enter, so if you can’t ditch YYZ for a beachside mojito, happy hour at El Caballito is the next best option. It has been extensively renovated and features a series of wall murals inspired by the works of Mexican artist Jose Posada, as well as authentic Mexican art pieces, furniture, and unique light fixtures created from Clase Azul tequila bottles. Toronto-based design firm Douglas Design Studio created a rustic, Mexican back-alley feel, inspired by the cantinas that you would find in Condesa, Mexico City. This means touches like exposed brick, reclaimed wood and metal in a cozy, candle-lit space that feels intimate and authentic. Perhaps most exciting is that El Caballito will open a 1,800-square-foot patio complete with a bar and a make-your-own taco station this summer. For a more refined dining experience, Los Colibris, the upstairs restaurant space, will soon open, offering upscale Mexican dining with 150 seats and two private dining rooms.
The approachable (but deliciously memorable) food.
Executive Chef Elia Herrera (formerly the pastry chef at Canoe) is originally from Veracruz, Mexico and takes much of her inspiration, recipes and cooking style from her grandmother and mother. Quick crowd-pleasers include the street-style antojitos – small plates, or “little cravings” of street-style Mexican food, like Tostada de Atun (tuna sashimi, magnolia sauce, avocado, crispy leeks, corn tortilla, $5.75), Panucho Pibil (pulled chicken, black beans, pickled red onion, corn tortilla, $3.75) and the Sopa de Camarón (spicy shrimp soup, lime, chilis, $3.25). For larger meals, there are a variety of tacos, such as Flank Steak ($4.25), Baked Pickerel ($5.50) and Champiñones al Ajillo (mushroom, arbol chili, ajillo sauce, flour tortilla, $4.25). Or, if you’re in the mood, opt for their far-from-average chicken wings with traditional Mexican sauces. Tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa are standard fare at most of Toronto’s growing number of Mexican restaurants, but El Caballito kicks it up a notch by pairing its delicious house-made versions with Frituras Mixtas – thinly sliced, lightly fried plantain, sweet potato, taro and totopos chips ($4.25 with salsas, $7.50 with guacamole). Diners can top their guacamole with grilled flank steak, blackened chicken or grilled pork. Another differentiating factor is that El Caballito is the only kitchen in Toronto to make all tortillas in-house.
It gives Tuesday a new meaning.
Tuesday may just have become your new favourite day of the week with El Caballito-s increasingly popular weekly Taco Tuesday event. Taco Tuesdays means Tecate, tequila and taco specials all night long with live Mexican music – just like on vacation (sans the inevitable creepy dude in the Hawaiian shirt). Basically, if your friends are going to venture anywhere on Tuesday after work (now and especially when the patio opens), it is here.
The happy hour cocktails.
El Caballito has become a quick after-work hot spot for those looking to let loose in an unpretentious environment. This, of course, is aided by the cocktail offerings created by Bar Manager Manny Contreras (formerly of Buonanotte Toronto). You can’t really go without trying a margarita. All margaritas are made with fresh citrus juice, and are offered in Classic ($9.50), Margarita Fresca (cucumber, jasmine, citrus, agave syrup, Tromba, $13.50) and Manny’s Margarita (pink peppercorn and juniper-infused Tromba, citrus, agave syrup, $11.50) versions. Also on offer are Tequila y Soda cocktails ($6.25 to $14.25), which are – wait for it – one calorie less than a vodka soda and equally refreshing. For those taking the ever-so-popular month off drinking, Mexican sodas ($3.75) round out the beverage offerings, including MexiCola made with real sugar. Happy hour runs from 4-6pm with different drink specials six days a week.
You can go late.
El Caballito is not only for happy hour shenanigans and there is a reason it has been dubbed the “home of the midnight taco.” It is open until the wee hours to dish up tasty snack, like their featured midnight taco, and expertly mixed cocktails to the late-night crowd. The kitchen is open Monday through Saturday, from 4pm until 1am. That sounds like a better post-bar option than the hotdog stand across the street to us.
But don’t just listen to us; check it out for yourself. El Caballito is located at 220 King St. W. (between Duncan and Simcoe streets) and open Monday through Saturday. Visit www.elcaballito.ca or call 416-628-9838 for more information.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)