I might as well be the very last Edmontonian to have visited Tres Carnales. This hip and popular taqueria has been open in the heart of downtown since 2011, drawing lineups every lunch hour. Although the number of Mexican eateries in our city has improved considerably over the years (eg. Huma, El Cortez), Tres Carnales definitely holds some sort of monopoly over Mexican food in Edmonton.
Tres Carnales is named after its three owners, friends who came together wanting to bring authentic Mexican to our city's dining scene. Their success is well-documented and has allowed them to open sister restaurant, Rostizado, in 2014.
I've been to Rostizado around the time they first opened, and although it has been on my radar for a long time, a visit to Tres Carnales just never came to fruition. It has nothing to do with their location, which is actually super convenient for those working or living downtown. The main deterrent was the much talked-about lines I guess. You don't want to be waiting when you're hungry.
I came a bit late meeting KN so I wasn't able to experience their ordering system first-hand, but apparently you line up first to place your order before you're seated. Seating is often limited so some people opt for take-out instead.
On a Friday afternoon, the room is lively and bustling. The restaurant is considered fast-casual, and the decor certainly matches that feel. We were seated in their couch area which made it a little awkward to eat but I guess we were lucky enough to even have a spot.
Tres Carnales takes pride in sourcing sustainable and quality ingredients. All of their proteins (excluding their fish) are farmed within one hour of the city, while everything else including marinades are made from scratch. Their tortillas and bread are also made fresh locally.
The menu, written on chalkboards above the counter, is simple enough to navigate. Eight different protein choices, served as four tacos ($11.67), three quesadillas ($13.33) or as a torta ($15.00). Sides, drinks, and an additional rotating menu feature round it out nicely.
KN got to the restaurant before I did so she ordered the salsa y totopos ($6.43) to nibble on while she waited. The house-made salsa was accompanied by a butcher paper cone filled with chips, presumably house-made as well. The salsa was chunky and fresh, with discernible pieces of tomato, onion, and cilantro. The chips are thick, crunchy, and hold up well, but they definitely were over-salted. Other than that, it's a good shareable appetizer to graze on before and during your meal.
By hearsay, the pescado tacos ($11.67) seem to be the item to get at Tres Carnales. Unlike the other tacos, the pescado comes in orders of three. Since we were sharing, I appreciated the fact that our server let us know beforehand, giving us the option of adding on another taco if we wanted to.
The pescado tacos feature a lightly battered and fried red snapper adorned with cabbage slaw, tomato salsa, chipotle mayo, and sliced radish. Even though it was deep fried, the fish was light and tasted fresh. I thought the side avocado cream salsa wasn't necessary but KN thought the taco was on the blander side without it.
We also ordered the al pastor tacos ($11.67), slow-roasted, marinated pork with diced onion, cilantro, and a side pineapple salsa. The tacos come in orders of four, with the meat resting on two tortillas, most likely to combat them breaking and becoming soggy. I thought the pork had really good flavour but the meat was on the drier side even though the tortillas were dripping with fat and juice.
In the end, I'm glad to have finally crossed Tres Carnales off of my never-ending list of restaurants to try. I think the anticipation might have unfairly raised my expectations, because while Tres Carnales is good, it didn't necessarily blow me away. Temper your expectations somewhat before visiting and you won't be disappointed.