Roasted Tomatillo, Jalapeno Black Bean, & Chunky Guac – A Photo Spotlight on Mad Mexican Dip & Spread Delights!

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You won’t believe what I did on Saturday.  Or maybe you will based on how well you know me and my craziness passion for food!  I ran out out of my beloved dips and spreads from Mad Mexican.  You know, the ones I purchased during my last visit to Evergreen Brick Works last month.  Me, my mum, and my brother gorged on Tw0-Way Jalapeno Black Bean dip and Roasted Tomatillo and Avocado salsa and polished them off in a heartbeat, spreading them on grilled tortillas, dipping samosas, falafel, and chicken nuggets in them, and mixing them into a little bit of rice for that yummy kick of flavour.  These dips and spreads are SO, SO delicious and realizing that I had nothing left in my fridge made me so sad.

So against my better judgment, I rushed over to Evergreen Brick Works after noon hour on Saturday for a quickie trip.  And I do mean quickie!   I caught the shuttle at Broadview station, hopped off at the Brick Works, speed-walked to Mad Mexican’s table at the market, quickly chose 2 dips from what they had left, and caught the next shuttle back, all in a matter of half an hour.  In the sweltering heat.  Interrupting my day of planned blogging activity.  All for dip.  I am a nut.  But I am happy nut now because now I have a fresh new container of their Roasted Tomatillo and Avocado and a deliciously delightful Chunky Guac!  I cursed and whined with every step to the streetcar and shuttle stop in the sticky heat, but I’m so glad I bit the bullet and shoved aside my wussy baby feelings for these guys because it was well worth it.  They currently have 6 dips, spreads, and salsas to choose from including a spicy salsa verde, a juicy pico de gallo, and a morita salsa made from dried, smoked morita peppers.  They’re $6 a pop with discounted rates available for multiple purchases with their delicious corn chips.

I’ve really relied on the farmers’ market at Evergreen Brick Works to get my fix but after reading over their list of retailers and shops where there products can be found, I’ll most likely check out some of the spots just to see what they have if I don’t happen to have Evergreen market plans on a Saturday.  Mad Mexican is always hooked up with Chocosol and Gabriel’s Tortilla Project and Maizal Quesadilla Cafe when they’re at the markets, so it’s triple food fantastic because you get to ogle their Mexican chocolate and drool over and eat their mouthwatering corn tortillas and quesadillas while you’re there!  Mad Mexican makes some of my very favourite spreads and dips so if you get the chance, definitely give them a whirl and just be careful when you do, because you’ll never want your kitchen and palate to go without them every again!

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Mad Mexican is a Toronto-based business specializing in gourmet Mexican food products.  They are located in the west end at 383 Jane Street, just south of Annette Street to the east and Baby Point Rd. to the west (Annette Street turns into Baby Point Rd. at Jane and vice versa).  Your best best though is to purchase their products from retailers and farmers’ market if you can’t conveniently access the west end.  You can find Mad Mexcian at the Saturday farmers’ market at Evergreen Brick Works from 8am-1pm and their products in a slew of different food shops around the city including Noah’s Natural Foods, Summerhill Market, The Big Carrot, Fresh & Wild, and many more.  You can check out the comprehensive list of retailers HERE!

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A Mexican Food and Grocery Emporium! Zucchini & Veggie Tacos and the Roasted Taste of Corn at La Tortilleria Market

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I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled open the door to La Tortilleria.  I should have though.  The storefront clearly said La Tortilleria Market with the words, “convenience” and “Mexican products” right underneath, alongside “fresh tortillas daily”.  I think I was so excited about trying a place I had wanted to try for ages that all logic escaped through my head and into the chilly air.  That and because I was so ready for lunch, I was hungry!

Anyway, I should have had an inkling as to the type of establishment I was about to step into, but it didn’t register at the time.  All I knew I was that I was excited about having Mexican food for lunch and that I would most likely be faced with the hard decision of deciding between quesadillas, tacos, and possibly burritos.  All thoughts of what to feed my hungry stomach momentarily seized though after I stepped inside.  I was expecting giant menu boards, some tables and chairs to sit and eat, and mouthwatering photos of food to entice the Mexican lover in me.  I got much more than I expected.

I had walked right into a Mexican food and grocery emporium!  OH.MY.GOD.  I actually said that out loud as I entered through the swinging entrance barricade.  Sigh.  How graceful of me.  I was in awe though.  I had never been to a Mexican grocery store before!  Chinese supermarkets?  Since the day I was born.  Polish mini market?  Just this past late summer.  I’ve even been to a Filipino grocery mart.  But a Mexican grocery store?  Oh, this was divine.  La Tortilleria is not only a sit-down spot to nosh on Mexican comfort food hot off the press, but the Bloor & Dufferin location is also a Mexican supermarket with everything from Mexican corn chips and tortillas to pantry staples to bulk spices to traditional Mexican pastries and baked goods.

The grocery mart is divided into different aisles and sections and each aisle and section is devoted to a specific type of food.  La Tortilleria has shelves of canned and dry pantry items such as chipotle, jalapeno, and serrano peppers, refried beans, hot sauces, cornmeal and maize, tamale and masa flour, Mexican chocolate mixes and coffee, churro mix, dips, condiments, and many others.  The grocery market also has a bulk section with spices as well as a grab n’ go sweets section with Mexican pastries, cookies, and churros.  Amidst all the Mexican grocery goodness is the hot food counter where you can order La Tortilleria’s hot and fresh corn tacos and tortillas to-go or to enjoy at the sit-down seating area.  Menu items range from $6-$10 and aside from the tortilla bundles, all the menu items are meals, meaning they’re meant to be eaten as a full meal or as sharing plates.  You won’t find single tacos here!  Go big or go home.

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It’s Crab Cake Day on Ate by Ate! Crispy Crab Cakes With Cabbage Slaw and Chipotle Mayo at La Mexicana

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It’s Crab Cake Day on Ate by Ate today!  I’m quite excited because this is the first of many crab cake posts to come!  Now before I get into all the delicious crab cake details, I want to share and discuss some blog related goodies with you all first.  You guys are well aware of how much I love thinking in and working with themes and categories, and I’m always thinking of new things to add to the blog.  When I first started Ate by Ate, I brainstormed a number of categories and had a backlog of material ready so that I’d be ready to go when I launched and went “live”.  I started off with the categories I knew I wanted to attack and come back to over and over again such as the Cupcake Chronicles, the Sushi Bar, and the Veggie Eats.  Over the past year, I continued adding to the list (which has grown like a beanstalk as you can tell from the right hand sidebar!) and not too long ago I came up with a great idea, thanks to an amazing beauty blogger.

Along with food stuffs, I’m a beauty junkie (someday I should show you all my lip gloss collection!) and I frequent Christine’s beauty empire, Temptalia, on a regular basis.  I was majorly inspired by her series, “5 Ways” and in a nutshell, Christine’s posts for “5 Ways” encompass 5 different ways to do wear something or 5 great products in a given category.  Things like 5 ways to wear purple eyeshadow, 5 great teal nail polishes, 5 great coral lipsticks, and so on and so forth.

It got me thinking of all the different ways you could incorporate old and material and her series inspired me to think of a way to do something similar here.  Just think, the possibilities are endless when you put it into the context of food.  I could do 5 great sprinkled donuts, 5 great smoked salmon dishes, 5 great apple baked goods…you get the idea.  And I am so excited about it!  I haven’t introduced this particular series on the blog just yet, but I’m hoping to have the series up and running by the new year.  As you could imagine, it’s going to take a lot of cross referencing, organization, and compiling on my part, not to mention I’ll need to have enough material to make a “5 Great” post for a specific category of food, but I’m up for the challenge!  I can’t wait to get started on it and if you have suggestions or ideas, let me know!  Oh, and if you’re curious as to why I’m bouncing around ideas in this particular post, it’s because crab cakes are going to eventually be a part of the series 😀

These amazing crab cakes are from the wonderful La Mexicana in Yorkville.  La Mexicana is always a huge temptation for both myself and my boyfriend whenever we’re in the area (and Mela Cafe, my favourite vegetarian and vegan place) and I know I’ve found a gem in them because I’m always looking up their menu online and daydreaming about what I’d order during my next visit.  You know a place has your heart when it does crazy things like that to you.  Anyway, I love crab cakes to death.  I don’t eat them often because they’re such a treat to me, but I get incredibly excited at the thought of them.  To my recollection, I’ve only ever had crab cakes 3 times and all 3 times were lovely and delicious, including the lunch I had here at La Mexicana.

Their crab cakes come in sets of two ($8) and are available on both their lunch and dinner menu.  The crab cakes (which are about the size of my palm) are lightly breaded and fried with the most savoury, soft, flaky crab meat you could imagine and are placed on a bed of carrot and cabbage slaw with shredded red and green cabbage and carrot.  You know the crab is real and fresh because when you  break the cakes apart, you see that stringy, shredded quality that’s common with fresh crab meat.  When I ate the cakes, I felt like I had bitten into the meat of the ever-popular messy crab legs.  The crab cakes just melt in your mouth and the breading has that great crispiness to it that’s not so crunchy the cakes are hard and difficult to eat, but not oily crispy either.  The soft, flaky crab meat was mixed with some green onions and red pepper flakes and the cakes were drizzled with chipotle mayo sauce which I LOVED.

The fun thing about crab cakes is not just the different ways they’re breaded but also the different sauces that are served with them.  I remember having crab cakes two and a half years ago at a pub that was served with this tangy seafood sauce that was a cross between salsa and shrimp cocktail sauce and the flavours were completely changed and revamped based on that difference.  The crab cake sauce at La Mexicana is delicious and that very subtle kick of spicy flavour is delicious and it envelopes every part of your mouth with the salty savouriness of the crab meat and breading.

Oh!  And do you all remember the black beans and feta cheese that I had the last time?  I dipped my cod fish empanadas in them that time, but I also discovered that they are amazing with the corn chips that are you given to every table during a meal.  I know because I ordered the creamy black bean side dish again because it’s just that good.  I hope everyone is having a fabulous long weekend and I hope you all enjoy the new upcoming “5 Great” series as much I will preparing for it.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend, everyone!

*****

La Mexicana is located at 838 Yonge St. in between Yorkville Ave. and Cumberland St., north of Bloor Street.  They are open 7 days a week at 11am.  They are open until 10pm from Sunday-Thursday and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  They serve two other locations, so for more info, visit their website here.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

I’m More of a Burrito “Girl” – Fish, Veggie and Cheese Burritos and Shrimp Quesadillas at Burrito Boyz

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Imagine yourself in a small hole-in-the-wall place with a topping bar piled high with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, and seafood sauce.  The place is full to bursting with people spilling out through the restaurant’s doors and onto the steps that lead down to this popular hub-bub of Tex-Mex.  There’s a buzz amongst the hungry crowd and workers need to shout out loud in order for everyone to hear them.  Arms are flinging about left and right, grabbing food, making food, and by the time you know it, there isn’t an extra inch of space to sit down to eat.  THIS is what it’s like at Burrito Boyz during lunch time!

I can’t vouch for dinner hour, but this is the scene that has come before me every single time I’ve come here and it’s simaltaneously exciting and overwhelming!  It’s exciting to see a business with great food thrive on a daily basis, but at the same time overwhelming when you’re racing against the clock to get here when they open so you can snag yourself  a seat!  Remember what I said in my Tequila Sunrise post?  Although the atmosphere here is very “grab n’ go”, I like to stay and eat if I can which requires me to park my tooshie at this fab burrito place no later than 11:15am.  After that…well, grab a number!

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An old friend of mine actually brought me to Burrito Boyz (the location on Adelaide St. West) almost 2 years ago and because of the crowds and my own timing, I’ve only been able to eat here about 3 times.  I have enjoyed everything I’ve eaten here though and I wholeheartedly understand why this place has the business that it does.  Burritos and quesadillas are their specialty and they have 7 burrito options and 5 quesadilla ones.  There are two sizes of burritos (small and large) and prices for all their food range from $4.87 to $9.73.  Burrito options include meat (chicken and steak), seafood (haddock, halibut, and shrimp), and veggie (veggie and cheese, and veggie soy), while quesadillas can be filled with all of the above excluding the halibut and haddock.  I’ve tried their veggie and cheese burrito, their shrimp quesadilla, and their haddock burrito and although I loved them all and am looking forward to trying their veggie soy, I have to say that their seafood ones totally do it for me.  YUM, LOVE, YUM.

What I absolutely adore about the food at Burrito Boyz is how crunchy and crispy everything is.  You know how burritos and such can get weighed down by the filling inside?  And how the heavy filling can sometimes make the burrito soggy and fall apart thus creating a Mexican fiesta on the table, or worse, on your lap?  Yeah, that doesn’t happen with the burritos or quesadillas here.  If stuff falls out, it’s only because it’s stuffed to the brim with veggies and beans and rice and burrito goodness, not because of its lack of sturdiness.

The burritos and quesadillas are pressed and toasted and the texture is fantastic.  You have this sturdy toasted tortilla shell that keeps everything in, and the only word that comes to mind that can accurately describe how good the filling tastes is, “Mmmmmmm!!!!”  With the exception of hot sauce and jalapenos, I order all toppings for my food and the combination of green onions, green bell peppers, diced tomatoes, and melted cheese along with everything else is amazing.  So perfectly melted and ooey and gooey.

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The value is great because not only can a small burrito tide me over onto the next meal (no joke, I could only finish 3/4 of a SMALL veggie and cheese my first time here and ate the rest near the end of the day on my way home), but they don’t skimp on product.  They seriously pack the toppings in and you can distinctly taste each and every veggie, bean, cheese, and sauce topping.  Not to mention the “meat” of the burrito is well worth it.  My shrimp quesadilla was packed with large shrimps that were plump and juicy and my haddock burrito was flaky with moist fish.  The seafood sauce that came with my quesadilla was delicious and you know how I am with sour cream and guacamole; I mop the stuff up 😀

I know it seems like, “well, they’re just burritos” or “it’s just Tex-Mex type food” but that’s kind of the beauty of it.  Sometimes it’s the “simplest” things that are the easiest to mess up because people can make too much of it and they muck it up with their attempt at complexity.  Burrito Boyz excels at what they do and I think that should be the philosophy of any restaurant business.  The point isn’t to do a million things and then not do anything well.  It’s better to stick to what you know you’re awesome at and let those things do the talking.  It’s delicious, simple, commonplace food done right.

*****

Burrito Boyz is located at 218 Adelaide St. West, west of Simcoe St. and east of Duncan St.  They have a number of locations in Toronto and the GTA, including Bramption, Mississauga, Streetsville, and Waterloo.  Their 2nd Toronto location resides in the neighbourhood of Little Italy at 575 College St. West, just west of Manning Ave. in between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave.  For more info on their menu and other locations, click here.

Scrapbooking materials used: terracotta, goldenrod yellow, emerald green, cornflower blue cardstock; green patterned paper (Choco Mod Patterns by DCWV); sparkly starburst adhesive embellishments (‘Wild Saffron’ Grand Adhesions by K&Company); forest green alphabet stickers (Recollections); Mexican themed stickers (Sticko and Paper House); cowboy hat sticker (Jolee’s Boutique); corner paper rounder (ek success).

Mi Casa es Su Casa – Cod Stuffed Corn Empanadas & Creamy Black Beans at La Mexicana

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Considering that I had this meal on Cinco de Mayo this past May, this post is waaaayyy overdue.  But you all know how I am with the scrapbook pages and I’d like to think that every day is a fiesta of sorts, so we’ll celebrate the tail-end of the long weekend celebrations with some REALLY delicious Mexican food!  La Mexicana and I were actually acquainted for the first time back in 2009 during the winter holidays and I loved the food so much that I’ve been daydreaming about it ever since.  Located in Yorkville just north of Bloor St. West, it’s conveniently located right near the subway and to many other neighbourhoods in the city that I adore.  You can stroll on Yonge St. or Bay St., browse Yorkville, walk the underground malls of Cumberland and Manulife Centre and so much more.  When I’m in this area, I never have to wonder how I’m going to plan my day because there are so many options.

I love Mexican, Tex-Mex, the whole bit.  The thought of fajitas, taquitos, empanadas, beans, tortilla soup, and enchiladas has my stomach growling and my taste buds panting.  Although the piping hot fajita plates look amazing here, my favourite thing about La Mexicana has to be the small plate lunches (the antojitos) and sides.  They have a lunch menu and a dinner menu and to my surprise, there are a number of vegetarian options on the menu as well as gluten-free.  Vegan options are a bit harder to come by though.  I’ve really enjoyed going to places with a menu that caters to different diets and lifestyles because I’m able to tuck these places away on mental sticky note for future places to consider for outings with friends or larger groups of people.

Their meat options include chicken, beef, and seafood (shrimp and cod fish, for example), and they have a variety of vegeterian small plate lunches and mains.  Dishes like Queso Fundido (bell peppers covered in melted cheese and pumpkin seeds), Ensalada de Calabacita (grilled zucchini and corn salad), Elote (corn on the cob with feta and cayenne pepper), black bean and vegetable burritos, and vegetarian enchiladas, chimichangas, and quesadillas.

I adore fish tacos so back in 2009 my friend Sally and I ordered their pescadillas, corn empanadas filled with salted cod fish (bacalao) with spicy avocado salsa and sour cream.  This meal was so delicious and yes, very spicy!  The corn empanadas were a dark, almost black, colour (think blue or black corn chips) and they were stuffed with soft, flaky cod fish.  The empanadas themselves weren’t spicy, it was the avocado sauce that had us tearing up!  It was insanely good and it was this scumptiousness that had me coming back for more.  Fast forward to Cinco de Mayo this past May.  I adore the same thing, along with a side of black beans and feta cheese, and to my surprise, the dish looks different.

Back in 2009, the corn empanadas with fish looked like this, up top.

Instead of dark coloured empanadas, the corn pockets were a light golden brown.  And instead of 2 medium to large-sized empanadas, there were FOUR medium-sized ones!  Finally, instead of the huffy-puffy-blinking-back-tears avocado salsa, it was a MUCH milder creamy avocado guacamole.  The difference in appearance completely threw me off, but I recall that La Mexicana had recently revamped their menu a bit and had also launched a website for the restaurant since the last time I had gone, so I chalked it up to them trying something new and interpreting the dish in a different way.  Just as delicious.  The fish was savoury and flaky and I had an absolute FIELD DAY dunking my empanadas in the thick avocado sauce and in my black beans.  My black beans side dish also took me by surprise.  I was expecting a dish of whole beans, but instead, it was a baking dish of smooth, creamy, whipped-like-butter black beans with feta cheese sprinkled on top.  Oh my god was this ever amazing.  You could literally spoon the stuff and stick it in your mouth because it was that good.

They give you a basket of corn chips with lots of dipping sauces and prices for lunch will run around $8 to $13 if you order a meal like mine ($10 for the pescadillas and $3 for the side of black beans and feta).  If you order the laaaarge platters that include sides of black beans and rice with fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, etc., it’ll come up to around $13-$17.  Prices are on par with Tequila Sunrise and what I like about the menu is how you can mix and match with the lunch plates (antojitos) and sides.  I’m waiting for the day I get to try some more of their food (like their potato and chirizo stuffed empanadas!).  Meanwhile, I’ll peruse their online menu, admire their beautiful and adorable decor (they have painted cactus outside their storefront, ha), and let my tummy grumble over the thought of guacamole, sour cream, and corn pockets.

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La Mexicana is located at 838 Yonge St. in between Yorkville Ave. and Cumberland St., north of Bloor Street.  They are open 7 days a week at 11am.  They are open until 10pm from Sunday-Thursday and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  For more info, visit their website here.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

Walking Into a Tex-Mex Saloon – Pulled Pork Taquitos at Tequila Sunrise

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I have a weakness and its names are Tex-Mex and Mexican.  Fajitas, corn tortillas, and empanadas stuffed with the most savoury meats and served with refried beans, rice, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole??  OH.MY.GOD.  Insert hungry rumbling noises from my stomach right here.  We all have our “naughty” foods, things we know are bad for us but are just so damn good.  Things we eat when we allow ourselves that one indulgent day or meal out of our otherwise healthy week.  I LOVE Tex-Mex and when I want to be bad, THIS is my indulgence that satisfies me from top to bottom.  Tequila Sunrise was an unplanned, accidental outing in my foodie repertoire and am I ever ecstatic that I ate here over a month ago!  This meal was delicious, so satisfying, and such a sweet surprise.

On that day, I had a hankering for burritos and skipped on over (well, more like bussed, subbed, and then skipped) to Burrito Boyz (blog post to come in the near future!), hoping to sink my teeth into either a veggie and cheese burrito or some form of quesadilla.  Burrito Boyz was packed and although I’m not against taking my food to-go, you know how I am with the pictures and all, so my sweetie and I said to hell with it and contemplated Plan B.  I was hungry, it was 1pm in the afternoon, I didn’t want to go far, and I still had that craving for a burrito!  Enter Tequila Sunrise just down the street!  I was aware of Tequila Sunrise but just hadn’t gotten around to trying them out so when Rich suggested it, I shrugged and thought, “why not?”

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I loved this meal SO much.  The decor and atmosphere were adorable.  Okay, so the disco ball hanging from the ceiling is snicker-worthy, but seriously, I felt like I was eating in an old-time Tex-Mex cowboy saloon out in the desert 😀  I half expected men in chaps to walk right in and tip their hat at me.  But the real winner here is the food.  SO EFFING GOOD!  Their menu has a plenty of choice and there are lots of traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes with Spanish and Columbian influences to choose from: chicken mole, tortilla soup, chimichangas, enchiladas, empanadas, pozole stew, chili con carne, huevos rancheros, tostadas, as well as plenty of guacamole and chirizo, and margaritas, mojitos, sangria, and of course, tequila to wash it all down!  I ordered the taquitos dish with pulled pork: 2 crispy fried corn tortillas in the shape of tubes (or flutes), filled with pulled pork and covered in chipotle sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and guacamole, served with rice, refried beans and corn chips, and salad.

This meal was perfection in so many ways.  The refried beans were so smooth and the meat and dish in general wasn’t salty, greasy, or overly seasoned at all.  The corn tortillas had the most delightful crispy texture and corn flavour and they didn’t collapse or get soggy because of the filling.  They maintained their crunchiness and texture and perfectly complemented the sauces and pork.  The flavour of the pulled pork really shined through and it was soft and juicy and SO delicious.  The flavour was subtle and natural because it wasn’t masked or overshadowed by anything; you knew you were eating pork and it was just slow-cooked so perfectly.  You could taste the leanness of the meat and there wasn’t an ounce of gross fat hanging off of it.  Fat doesn’t equal flavour and Tequila Sunrise got their pulled pork bang on.  Quite possibly the BEST pulled pork I’ve ever had.  I inhaled this and I think I said, “oh my god, this is so good” about four times during my meal!  It’s a dish I can envision myself ordering time and time again.

Tequila Sunrise is a gem.  Wonderfully nice staff, delicious food with plenty of choices to boot, and cute decor to match an equally cute atmosphere.  Prices are very reasonable meal-wise.  They have plenty of $9, $10, and $11 meals as well as platters for multiple people to share (such as fajitas and enchiladas, and combo platters).  So if you’re looking for something simple, you can definitely manage with $10-$12 and if you’re looking to go all out (meal, drink, dessert, the whole nine yards), it’ll probably be a $20 meal.  Well worth it for the fan-freakin’-tastic food 😀  I’m so happy I got the chance to eat here and I’m looking forward to my next noshing!

*****

Tequila Sunrise is located at 212 Adelaide Street West, west of University Ave and situated between Simcoe and Duncan St.  Adelaide St. is north of King, south of Richmond St.  They are open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, serving lunch at 11:30am.  Dinner only on Saturday and Sunday is served at 4pm.

Scrapbooking materials used: cobalt blue and buttercup yellow cardstock (Recollections); green patterned cardstock (“Green Tea” stack by DCWV); red and blue alphabet stickers (Recollections); journalling card (“Darcy collection” by Anna Griffin); Mexico stickers (Jolee’s); Mexican embellisment stickers (Recollections).