The only way to truly tell the story of the food at El Taco is to tell the story of the people behind it.
Twenty one years ago, I moved to the West Kootenay from Salt Spring Island on the coast. My first three years were spent in this magikal little place called, Queens Bay. I found the tiniest cabin ever, and dug myself in right away.
Upon moving there, I was immediately told that I should go to the ferry landing and meet Justine 'cause we would get along awesomely. She was rocking a coffee cart there during the summer back then. (Those were simpler times.) So, I went to the ferry landing, walked right up to the coffee cart, and said to the girl standing there, "You must be Justine. I'm supposed to meet you because we're gonna get along awesomely!" She laughed at me and said, "No, I'm Andrea!"
That turned out to be a total score though because Andrea and I got along awesomely from that very moment. (I thought to myself, "This place is great! So far, awesome people everywhere!") Turns out that there were three girls doin' the coffee cart at the ferry, Justine, Andrea and Caroline. They were all living at Justine's mom's place down the road from where I lived that summer.
Just like with Andrea, Justine and I hit it off perfectly. Maaan, is she ever a fantastic person! Back then, her and her whole crew of friends used to go to Mexico each winter. It was either the following spring or the one after that, that Justine came home with Ruben. He is an amazing guy. I liked him a lot right off the bat too.
Justine and Ruben have been together ever since...married with two beautiful children!
(Photos with permission from Justine)
Every winter they go back to Ruben's home in Mexico to be with family...parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents...the whole shebang! In the coming years, armed with family recipes, they opened El Taco with Justine's dad, Gil. They have been open for around 16 years I believe.
The food you get from El Taco is genuine Mexican cuisine. It is the only truly authentic Mexican eats that you will find in our region. Coming from family recipes that have been passed down through generations, their food tells a story of family, of love, of kindness and togetherness, and man, oh maaaan...is it ever good!
Chorizo Burrito - Lookkit that beauty!
Unless you have super human skills, which clearly I do not possess, there's a good chance you might just get some on you. They pack so much lovin' into that food that it kind of knocks you aback, and it takes no prisoners on your senses, especially the full-tilt assault on your taste buds!
In the battle of me vs El Taco...El Taco is the undefeated champ!
It's a funky little place that transports you through its food. I love El Taco! I know the people behind it, and I know what they put into it. I know the general linage of its history, and ultimately that it was born from love, and that's exactly what their food delivers. If you want a true Mexican food experience, there is only one place to go.
306 Victoria Street (block and a bit away)
Closes 8 p.m.
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00am - 8:00pm | Sun 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Phone: (250) 352-2060
I like food. I've come to like writing about food. I'll eat anything if I have confidence that it was prepared well. Even if there are ingredients that I truly dislike on their own, I know that with a proper chef, who understands balancing of flavours and has the knowledge and skillful precision to bring them together, can make any ingredient truly sing. Through this little hobby of mine, I've become pretty dialed into the food in this town.
Most all of my guests at my hotel were asking me about where to get good meals in Nelson. They asked me so often that I just made it a part of my check-in pitch to each room I checked in. I'd always do the business end first for the check-in, and then I'd ask them if they'd like to know about where to go for food.
The number one thing that all my guests want? They don't want to drive! They just want to walk from the hotel. So, I start with the closest two, and then work my way out from there. (...although I do tell them that Nelson's downtown is like 6 silly-sized blocks, so it doesn't really make a difference.) I know when my guests are on their way out for dinner, and when I see them walking out, I tell them to have fun. When they get back to the hotel, I ask them which place the chose, and how it was. That is what shaped this guide.
I've had very in depth conversations about the food in Nelson with hundreds of people. What is on this summary page is from the feedback from those people...my guests. The rankings I put in for the top five are not my opinion, but rather 100% observation from what my guests say upon returning from dinner. I took all that feedback, and then went to each place to take some current photos, and write about being there. (I write about more than just the food, but also the experience of being there too.)
We are truly spoiled for food quality in our remote little town in the middle of the British Columbia mountains!
**I will have links posted on each of these summaries that take you to in depth articles I have written about each place when I went there.
Busaba Thai Cafe
It's hard to not eat a Pad Thai every day. I'm trying, but I'm not doing very well. I'm pretty sure I've quickly become their number one customer.
It is very exciting to have the Busaba Thai Cafe as our house restaurant here at The Savoy Hotel. They are a well established, and long loved Thai restaurant in Nelson. It was only months ago (June, 2020) that they lost their place to a very unfortunate fire that had destroyed several businesses. It's a big thing for them to be here in our building, and we couldn't be happier about it. Rungnapha & Yasuaki Uehara (Yasu) are the nicest people ever, and they worked really hard to re-open Busaba on August 19.
Busaba Thai Cafe
198 Baker Street
(At the Savoy Hotel)
Hours: 11:30am - 8:30pm (Closed Mondays)
Phone: (250) 352-2185
Nelson's Top 5 Restaurants
#1 - Pitchfork Eatery
Ahi Tuna Poke Salad
It has been crazy watching my guests talk about this place. I'm kinda fascinated by it. I've had in depth conversations with hundreds of people about food in our town, and my guests have made it clear to see that Pitchfork has an absolute stranglehold on the top spot in Nelson. It has about 55% of my guests' vote, which means the entire rest of the town is fighting for the remaining 45%. Those numbers speak for themselves!
Pitchfork definitely has the best patio in town as it is backed onto park space, and is off the main street. They have a brunch that is excellent as well. Their restaurant does not do reservations on the patio though, so there could be a wait as Josh (Mateschitz - executive chef) is crushing it, and Thursday night there is live acoustic music. Dinner service starts at 5:00pm, so if you want a spot on their sweet patio, the earlier the better.
More on the Pitchfork Eatery
Reservations recommended (for inside)
518 Hall Street
Hours: 11:00am - 9:00pm Daily (closed from 3:00pm - 4:30pm most days)
Brunch: 11:00am - 2:00pm Daily
Phone: (250) 352-2744
#2 - Yum Son
Yum Son Noodle Bowl with a Spring Roll (Plant Based) add on
This is the stand alone number 2 spot in town. Yum Son is modern Vietnamese food. Oddly enough, it has the best chicken wings in town. (I think that's the modern part.) They present visually stunning food that hits the spot nicely.
More on Yum Son...
522 Victoria Street
Hours: 11:30am til late (usually 9:00pm) Daily
Phone: (778) 463-2234
#3 (Tie) - Rel-ish
Butternut Squash Ravioli
I have a ton of respect for Trevor (Ditzel - owner and executive chef). He's kind of a visionary for how he looks at and goes about his business. His food is fantastic. When you watch him, it's plate after plate of gorgeous food that he puts out, and he does it in the calmest, most mellow fashion. He has an open kitchen, so I have watched him many times. I came up with the term, "Cooking with courage and confidence," from watching Trevor do what he does. Open kitchens are scrutiny under fire that force accountability. I really admire those who are willing to work in one.
Rel-ish has an all day breakfast. A lotta my guests really perk up when I tell them that. It's my favourite breakfast in town - try The Server's Choice. Holy smokes is it ever good! There are many vegetarian and gluten free options on his menu as well to accommodate all. Modern cuisine.
Trevor also just took over the restaurant at the Balfour Golf Course to bring us his second location: rel-ish at The Osprey.
ABSOLUTELY HAVE THE GOAT CHEESE CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN!!
301 Baker Street (One block away)
Hours: 10:00am - 10:00pm Daily
rel-ish at the Osprey
602 Queens Bay Road
#3 (Tie) - Marzano
Spicy Salami Pizza to eat in or take back to our rooftop patio at The Savoy Hotel
Ryan (Martin) did a massive, massive renovation on his restaurant to bring Marzano to Nelson two years ago. He actually went to Italy for proper training and brought staff with him...and he brought back an authenticly bad-ass Italian wood-fired pizza oven. I gained so much respect for him when I saw a video he put up of himself pulling a pizza from the oven while in Italy. (I actually asked him to put it onto youtube for me so I could share the link.) That showed his commitment to going all in to bringing the best food to town that he possibly could. It says something...and so do my guests after they return from there.
When I show my guests this video, I do an animated commentary play-by-play to draw their attention to the expression on Ryan's face. He's so psyched. It's amazing! That has literally sold people on going to Marzano. Fantastic stuff!
Ryan in Italy...
153 Baker Street (Right across the street)
Hours: 7:00am - 10:00pm Daily
Breakfast until 11:00am weekdays | 12:00pm on weekends
Pizza starts at 11:00am!
Phone: (250) 352-9205
#5 - Broken Hill
The Broken Clubhouse with House Made Bacon and Sweet Corn Succotash
If chasing down great beer with great food is your thing, then Broken Hill is the place for you! The owner, Chad (Hansen), is a true, true connoisseur of good, quality beer, and he will actively seek it out. It is one of two essential aspects of his restaurant. There are 24 local BC craft beers on tap at all times! He keeps the selection always changing so as to keep fresh everyone's thirst quest. The second crucial aspect of Broken Hill is their smoker! The flavouring they smoke into their food is insanely good. It is balanced. It is not overpowering. Totally dynamite!
479 Baker Street
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:00am to 10:0pm | Fri-Sat 11:00am - 12:00am
Phone: (778) 463-2244
Three Special Locations
The best way to explain this food is through its story. Justine (Langevin) has been with Ruben for 20 years. They are married and have two beautiful children. Every winter, for every one of those 20 years, they go back to Mexico to be with his family. Around 16 years ago, armed with generational family recipes, El Taco was born. It is the only truly authentic Mexican cuisine you will find in the region. It is fantastic, solid food that boasts the lineage of having been passed down through generations worth of time.
(It is great for bringing back to our rooftop patio at The Savoy Hotel.)
More on El Taco...
306 Victoria Street (block and a bit away)
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00am - 8:00pm | Sun 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Phone: (250) 352-2060
Sage Tapas and Wine Bar
This is like Nelson's little secret weapon! It is definitely the first place to go if you love wine. Sage Tapas is only open for three days a week from 4:00pm onward, but if you are here during those nights, and can get a reservation, you will not be disappointed! It is in an intimate setting with a sprawling view from their deck. One could make a definite case for it being the pound-for-pound king in town when considering its short hours coupled with the punch that it delivers.
Sage Tapas and Wine Bar
(Reservations are highly recommended!)
705 Vernon Street
Hours: Thurs-Sat 4:00pm til Late
Phone: (250) 352-5140
The Dominion Cafe
Raspberry Pecan Muffin with a Chunky Monkey Smoothie in the background
Well, the easy part is that the Dominion Cafe not only has the best muffins in town by far, it also has the best selection in town. Those awesome folk offer 14 different fresh baked varieties each day. Oh man, are they ever good too!
Daylen (Hotte - owner) is very diligent with healthiness, and brings that passion into what she offers at the Dominion. She doesn't stop at just the high quality of ingredients, because she is adamant about sourcing local for everything she uses. There's something about that place that makes you feel an intrinsic comfort of home. It's a special little place, that is for sure!
More on The Dominion Cafe...
The Dominion Cafe
334 Baker Street (one block away)
Hours: Tues-Sat 8:00am - 5:00pm | Sun 10:00am - 4:00pm
Phone: (250) 352-1904
Nelson Brewing Company Tasting Room (Not a food place)
512 Latimer Street
Phone: (250) 352-3582
Backroads Brewing Company (Not a food place)
460 Baker St (2 1/2 blocks away)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 12:00pm - 10:00pm | Fri-Sat 12:00pm - 11:00pm | Sun 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Phone: (778) 463-3361
Torchlight Brewing Company (They do have food that goes well with beers)
125 Hall Street
Hours: Sun-Wed 12:00pm - 8:00pm | Thurs-Sat 12:00pm - 9:00pm
Phone: (250) 352-0094
Not restaurants, but handy places my traveling guests ask me about that are within walking distance downtown...
Kootenay Co-Op (a huge natural foods grocery, etc. store)
777 Baker Street
Phone: (250) 354-4077
Pharmasave Drug Store
685 Baker Street
Phone: (250) 352-2316
Wings Variety Convenience Store
371 Baker Street
Phone: (250) 352-3848
The Hume Liquor Boutique (at the Hume Hotel)
422 Vernon Street
Hours: 9:00am - 11:00pm Daily | Delivery available
Phone: (250) 352-5154
Hipperson Hardware Company
395 Baker Street
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30am - 5:00pm | Sun 10:00am - 4:00pm
Phone: (250) 352-5517
The Dollar Store
644 Baker Street
Phone: (250) 352-4644
This is an old bio photo they gave me way back when.
One of my favourite tunes the boys ever did was Everlasting Morning Sky. It's possibly the most quintessential Fat Cats song to me outside of Absolute Route. The start of the middle jam puts me right back in Clintons before the boys were even a year old as a band.
So, when it comes on, this jam transports me right into that room. Then, in the middle of that Morning Sky jam, when Todd starts digging in, all I can see is Jeffrey, Sebo, Lash, and all the old school kids beside me. We're all just gruuuvin', laughin' and gigglin' with huge smiles on our faces! Pure good fun with pure good people! It was such a magikal time!
I could never understate what Fat Cats gave to me, and how their music, and the scene they created from within it, enriched everything about my life. I'm good at refelcting upon the ripples of things, and the ripple that was set off from the first time I saw them on my bro's apple orchard, on an epic long July weekend in 1993, is really quite unbelievable!
Fatties will always be a real big part of who have become as person, and that notion comes so alive whenever I hear Everlasting Morning Sky and instantly see myself gruuuvin' next to those kind people.
It's funny how having fun can open the door to bring so much amazing into one's life. Finding the fun and being grateful for it is my favourite thing to do because I know how it can change everything. I learned a lotta that from my time with Fatties and the people that came with it. Some of the best times of my life, and the gifts it all left me with could never be truly quantified!
Trevor, you're a bastard!
I just got home from work. It's 12:40 in the starry dark morning. I plug in a USB stick and there's a photo on it that I didn't know what it was. I open it up, and it's this!
Now I'm totally screwed 'cause all I wanna do is shove my face into that, all the way, forget the cutlery...SHOVE IT RIGHT IN total savage like! Maaaan, that's a tease. I remember that thing, and it's all I want right now more than anything ever, but nooooo...welcome to Teaseland, British Columbia, courtesy of Trevor Ditzel!
This Burrito Omelette is awesome!
(Except for when it's midnight, at which time you're totally outta sweet luck!)
301 Baker Street
2007 triathlon in Nelson, BC
Photo by Phil Best - www.bestphotos.ca/
I've always liked this photo. I don't know why, but I don't really like that many photos of my time racing. I haven't done it for a few years, but in reflection, it's just so surreal. I can't believe the way people give a shit about me doing a simple triathlon. It's so tripped out...
So, when I look at photos of those times, it's a weird thing for me. I never did anything out of the ordinary, certainly nothing that tons of people don't do all the time, but my racing has actually generated some extraordinary experiences for many people.
I've always really liked this photo though. It was right before the race. It was like clockwork for every single race I did: One last schwill of Gatorade Orange before I walk out of transition and onto the beach for the start.
I was most often among the first people to arrive at a race, and close to, if not completely, the last one out of transition to the beach. I never wanted to walk around with all the tape and wraps on because they were so uncomfortable, and I just don't like line-ups.
It'd take me so long to put everything on that I always ended up scurrying at the end just to make it on time. (In Christina Lake it was mostly due to me shootin' ball in the park just down the road from the transition area.)
**I loved Christina Lake for that. I'd get my bike racked before anyone. Then I'd grab my ball, and me and Honey Bear would go to the park to shoot baskets til it was time to get ready. As soon as all the race stuff was over, I'd go back to the court before I drove home over the pass. It was great! Pure fun!
(One year I hosted a potluck at my place in the early afternoon the day that I 'Ball > Triathlon > Balled' in Christina Lake in the morning. Good times!)
Even though this photo is from Nelson in 2007, I can see every race I did in it. I can feel the moment and very vividly picture it all.
Looking at it now though, one of the things that stands out the most is my Jerry necklace, because I put it around Honey Bear's neck when I had her cremated after she died. I had gotten it from one of my most loved friends of my life, Simone, in the Fall of 1993 when I was first getting sick. I wore it every day from then until I sent it with Honey Bear 20 years later in 2013.
I see my racing, I see my Honey Bear, I see a beautiful friend of mine, and I see the experiences my triathlons made all rolled into this photo. It's such a mix of emotion. When I see Simone and Honey Bear, it's all love. When I see the moment before the race, it's all calm adrenaline...where I can even taste the Gatorade. When I see the experiences though, it doesn't feel right. I just feel outta place, like, I'm not that guy. It ate at my mind. It weighed on my shoulders. I try to sink into my race and charge, but inevitably, I create a scene that I don't deserve.
It's then that I can often feel like I wished I was invisible, which would, in turn, make me feel shitty, because why would anyone want to hide from being a source of really good things for other people?!
When I'm in that place, I'm glad I'm in so much pain because I can kind of hide in it. It hurts so bad that everything becomes blurry except for the pain that is crystal clear. I guess in a way I am in some semblance of an invisible cloak because I can't see anything clearly except pain.
Pain: Always the purifier!
Then I remember that it's the pain that makes that big scene for so many people, and then I find myself stuck. I don't know why people make such a big deal about pain. It's just pain. It's never been a problem for me to handle. It doesn't matter that it hurts. It's just like anything, you get used to it. Sure it can slow you down, but is that a bad thing? I don't think so. I've always thought that hurrying was for suckers anyway, so maybe pain was a good marriage to my body. From there, I just have fun.
So, what's the big deal?
That's what I wrestle with with the triathlon photos of mine. I mostly just see something that isn't real. Every so often though, there is one that gets me, like this one Phil Best took of me before that race in Nelson.
I'm actually quite lucky because Phil became a good friend of mine over the years, and it all started with this set of photos he took of me.
It's crazy the ripples of life. I'm glad I know how to pay attention to them. ...and the ones that triathlon kicked off, jeezuz, fuck, maaaan!
I can't wait to do it again. Next summer can't come soon enough!
I also see things in this photo that I can no longer do. I can't kneel down like that. For the wraps I know that I have around my ankles, I can't do that anymore because I can't really reach my feet.
Stuff Writin' About Kinda Guy
I am a simple guy who likes to dream of the impossible and go after it. I have found fun in writing about my journey as well as other things that inspire me too.