Midtown Mexican in a flash

Spicing up Yonge and Eglinton

This new Yonge and Eglinton restaurant opens this month, so we decide to head down to their Yorkville location to see what they have in store.

The shop turns out burritos, tacos and quesadillas to workaday locals with a hankering for something a little different than the usual fast-food standbys. It’s easy to pick up lunch here for under ten bones.

But don’t get your exotically leaning hopes up: there’s nothing authentically Mexican or homey about either the place or the process. This here is an on-the-go, chain experience through and through with south-of-the-border-style fillings.

Quesada follows the familiar fast-food formula: Step up to the counter, place your order, direct an employee to assemble your chosen ingredients, and then hand over your pesos.

The pungent smell of chipotle assaults the nose as we wait patiently in the unrelenting lineup at this sub-level eatery across from the ROM, the fourth in a chain that is set to open up another location on Yonge south of Eglinton in late April.

Burritos outnumber other options covering such ground as ancho chile adobo seasoned pork, carne asada (grilled steak) and grilled vegetables. (On this day, chile-lime shrimp filling is inexplicably and disappointingly unavailable until after the lunch rush.)

Decently moist, diced morsels of oven-roasted chicken breast in one burrito (small $5.35, large $6.95) packed into a whole wheat tortilla with slow-cooked black beans (pinto beans also on offer); well-timed and flavourful cilantro-lime rice; chopped lettuce; freshly grated cheese; a dollop of sour cream; and salsa.

Rolled up, heated on the grill and bundled into tinfoil, this is by far the best of the fare sampled. (For a healthier, lighter option at the same price point, any burrito can be plated “in the buff,” as in, the fillings served on a bed of lettuce.)

Crispy corn tortilla with pork is not up to snuff ($2.75) with its hard, unheated taco shell and dry, diced pork bits.

The other toppings — lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream — pass the grade but can’t rescue this hand-held Mexican standard.

A basket lined with red and white checked paper cradles quartered steak quesadilla ($7.35), another disappointment: hard, processed grilled steak cubes being the culprit.

Fresh cilantro, onion, tomato, jalapenos and jack cheese do their part to win over taste buds, but this half-moon tortilla sandwich is too far gone.

A dollop of sour cream for dipping accompanies.

Salsas are made in-house: roja (extra spicy), salsa verde (medium) and salsa fresca (mild). Salsa verde blends tomatillos, green chiles, cilantro, and lime to a zesty, tangy finish.

The room follows the fast-food theme, with minimal decorations, clean lines, help-yourself pop fridges, and plastic chairs that discourage lingering. Latin-leaning artworks adorn the lime-green walls — an avocado painting here, a Mayan carving photograph there.

The richness of a dark wooden ordering counter is echoed in a dark-wood bench along one wall, the only upscale décor features. White tabletops and a dropped white ceiling studded with pot lights bounce light around the room. A selection of non-alcoholic drinks adds interest, albeit at a price, as in imported sweet tamarind Jarrito (recommended, $2.99) or Odwalla fruit drinks ($3.99).

Despite the strong Mexican presence in this city, few restaurants have succeeded in turning out remarkable, authentic Latin fare to Torontonians. And Quesada is no exception.

But Quesada strives — and manages — to offer an alternative to the soup and sandwich standard while keeping in budget with competitors. Catering available.

Quesada 200 Bloor St. W., 416-966-2525 Lunch for two, excluding tax, tip and alcohol: $25


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