By Patrick Dixon – Toronto, ON
El Catrin Destileria is an authentic Mexican experience in the heart of Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The restaurant boasts an ambitious selection of traditional and modern cuisine.
The team at El Catrin spared no effort in bringing Mexico’s culture and vibrancy to Toronto when it officially opened its doors back in June of 2013. The rustic exterior is welcoming and unpretentious. The floor-to-ceiling mural that greets visitors in the front entrance was painted by three Mexican artists and took over 14 weeks to complete. The Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos, is a prevalent theme throughout the restaurant, as it is in Mexican culture. The idea is that accepting and embracing the fleeting nature of life allows us to celebrate the time we have together.
The celebration really comes to life on El Catrin’s colourful 180-seat patio. Beautiful steel deco chandeliers and imported tiling surround patrons while they enjoy the wide variety of unique creations available on the tapas-style menu. The wide-open canopy of woodwork provides a sense of comfort without feeling confining. When the weather gets a little chilly, the central fire pit roars to life and the celebration keeps going well into the night.
The atmosphere may be what brings people through the door, but the quality of the food is what keeps them coming back. The fried Baja fish taco is an instant crowd pleaser. The Guacamole En La Mesa, which is prepared tableside, is consistently ranked among the best in Toronto. El Catrin’s tequila bar contains over 120 labels and the cocktail options are plentiful and delicious.
At El Catrin, every season is patio season. From the earliest signs of spring in March, to the waning days of December, the patio is open for business. In the summer months, at full capacity, the patio can easily see over 1000 people a day. Even in frigid weather, the heated patio is too tempting to resist. Visitors will brave the cold and line up around the cobblestone block for a chance to revel in El Catrin’s spirited outdoor atmosphere. There aren’t too many patios in Toronto that can make the same claim.
El Catrin’s patio has a distinct feel. It is very much a bustling hotspot, brimming with energy and
culture. And yet, nestled in a cul-de-sac accessible only by foot, it manages to feel like a secluded urban hideaway.
Many visitors have already had the pleasure of experiencing this award-winning restaurant. Yet for some, El Catrin is still a hidden gem still waiting to be discovered. Although the Distillery District is somewhat off the beaten path compared to other attractions in Toronto’s downtown core, it is a detour worth taking.