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JC’s Tacos and More

Neighbourhood: Kildonan
187 Henderson Hwy
Phone: (204) 414-9187
Entrees: $10-$30

For a taste of fresh-off-the-grill Mexican food,  JC’s Tacos and More delivers authentic flavour. But it’s more than just tacos and quesadillas at this casual eatery.

Opening in July 2010, JC’s is one of a handful of restaurants in the city serving Salvadorian food,  including that nation’s signature dish, pupusas.

Located inside a circa-1935 brick building on Henderson Highway, the former post office has left its drab past behind. Today the space exudes cheer from its multi-hued, custom-made tables and chairs to lively fiesta tunes.

Originally from El Salvador, Chef and owner Marvin Dubon’s menu is an eclectic and toothsome mix of south-of-the-U.S. border favourites. The name JC’s is a tribute to Marvin’s children, Josue and Corina.

Marvin’s mantra: Healthy food can taste great and doesn’t need chemicals and preservatives.

That sensibility is evident at JC’s, where many ingredients are locally sourced, free-range and organic at the 29-seat spot.

Tortilla chips and a fragrant, bright pico de gallo flush with fresh diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, salt and lime made a satisfying, opening salvo. A silky, guacamole was lean on ingredients (avocado, tomato and onion) but long on creamy rich flavour. Without a deep fryer in house, chips are one of the only menu items not made on site. Instead, Marvin specially orders the locally made crisps, with strict specifications to fry lightly and then bake with minimal salt.

JC’s take on pupusas doesn’t stray far from tradition. Typically, the handmade cornmeal tortilla pockets are filled with meat, cheese or beans and served with watery cooked tomato sauce for dipping. At JC’s,  vegetarian pupusas are packed with mozzarella, parmesean, feta and loroco, a vine flower bud that tastes like an artichoke. Curtido, a tart Salvadorian coleslaw with pickled cabbage, onion and carrot is a palate-cleansing counterweight.

A generous chicken quesadilla comes stuffed with smoky grilled and shredded meat, green bell peppers, white onion and a blend of mild mozzarella, cheddar and marble.   Most dishes can be made with a choice of  chicken, beef or pork. Vegetarian options are also widely available.

Spice is also left to personal taste. All meals are mildly seasoned in the kitchen but can be spiked with a few drops of Marvin’s house-made hot sauce. The heat of his liquified tomato, tomatillos, jalapeño, onion and salt blend is unassuming at first bite, but builds.

For a meat fix, tuck into the carnitas tostadas  trio. Forget your fingers and pick up a fork because these crispy fried corn tortillas are stacked impossibly high with juicy, slow-cooked  grilled pork, iceberg lettuce, tomato and sour cream. Hints of cumin and a dash of ancho pepper powder add flavour depth to this hearty pork.

The fajita steak platter arrives from the kitchen, popping, sizzling and smoking as onions, mushrooms, green bell peppers and strips of New York strip loin grill on the burning hot iron skillet. Zesty beef strips and hot, juicy veggies burst with earthy flavour.

JC’s doesn’t serve desserts, but a horchata—a cool, cinnamon-spiced Salvadorian drink with powdered pumpkin seeds, cocoa  and vanilla—satisfies a craving for sweet.

JC’s Tacos and More is open Mon-Fri 11:30 am -9 pm, Sat 3 pm-9 pm.

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