El Pueblito Mexican Restaurant (Bracebridge)

How can you not feel cheerful entering El Pueblito Mexican Restaurant? The cozy dining room is swathed in lively colours galore and there are tons of knick knacks to see while waiting. Unfortunately, you’ll be waiting – to place your order, get drinks, get food, and pay. At least I’ve grown… when in cottage country, I learn to slow down and just enjoy the experience.

A few dishes feature their fish-of-the-day, which was pickerel for the ceviche and tacos during our summer visit. Marinated and cured in an acid of lime and tomatoes, the fish takes on a pink hue in the ceviche ($16) and has the taste of a lighter Arctic char. It’s wonderfully fresh, either by itself or scooped onto a crispy thin tortilla chip, the citrus acid nicely balanced with a hint of heat.

The starter just needed more salt. In fact, all their dishes need more seasoning. Perhaps El Pueblito is trying to respect an ingredient’s natural flavours or cater to Bracebridge’s older demographic, but everything needed an extra hit of salt to finish the dish – maybe they should just leave some at each table.

The same pickerel tasted completely different in the fish tacos ($20), once lightly grilled and topped with pineapple salsa. Since the fish isn’t deep fried and there’s not a typical slaw topping, the tacos are soft; I wish there was a crunchy element to provide textural interest – even some finely chopped bell peppers and red onion would be great.

Still, the tacos were tasty – the corn tortillas chewy and fresh, and the spicy mayo and tomatillo salsa great condiments for the dish. The refried beans were rich and smooth, lovely on its own or smooshed into the rice. The grains get even better once you add in consommé and chopped onions (from the birria tacos). In the end, the fish tacos are a little soft but at least they’re not messy to eat.

Consequently, the complete opposite experience of having a birria taco ($20). Stuffed with beef and deep fried, these arrive blistering hot and need to be wrapped in a tissue to dunk. Having seen many people have the dish at food trucks, it’s a wonder how anyone isn’t covered in consommé and grease without a proper table and dishware. If you’re ordering these, it’s best not to wear white.

The slowly cooked beef was plentiful and tender, but because under seasoned meat and consommé, we couldn’t help feel that the birrias were missing something. I was waiting for a flavourful explosion to erupt, only to be met with a slow-moving stream of lava. The flavours improved once we added tons of the raw onion, cilantro, and avocado into the crispy hot taco, a few sparks in the lava stream.

Saving room for churros ($10 for 6) is essential. When our server asked us whether we wanted six or ten of the pastries, I thought it must be a rehearsed question as why would two people need more than six? One bite into the hot hollow logs of fried dough and we were hooked. Dusted with cinnamon sugar they were already delicious, but a dunk into a creamy thick not-overly-sweet caramel and the dessert was absolutely sublime. Yeah, so maybe we could have devoured ten.

El Pueblito isn’t a large space, so you’ll likely be seated quicker if you’re a table of four or less. For such a small dining room, it’s perplexing on why it’s so difficult to get someone’s attention, especially when there’s no shortage of staff (we counted at least six people working that evening). Perhaps the outdoor patio really divides attention, or the servers need to help in the kitchen, but it’s best to order as much as possible at the beginning of the meal to avoid playing where’s Waldo.

Just make sure you order a starter and are equipped with cervezas - a cold drink with crispy chips will hopefully keep the hangry monster at bay. And remember, you’re likely on vacation, so be patient and take it easy.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Bracebridge, Canada
 Address: 155 Manitoba Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: