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“Great food, chic ambiance but what's the hurry?!” 4 of 5 stars
Review of El Catrin

El Catrin
Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario M5A 3C4, Canada
416-203-2121
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Ranked #304 of 6,995 Restaurants in Toronto
Cuisines: Mexican
Dining options: Breakfast, Late Night, Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast, Late Night, Reservations
Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
809 reviews 809 reviews
396 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 182 cities Reviews in 182 cities
614 helpful votes 614 helpful votes
“Great food, chic ambiance but what's the hurry?!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2014

By virtually all measures El Catrin should have a five star rating - the food was excellent, the service solid, the ambiance chic and welcoming and a decently priced wine list. However, I could only justify a four star rating because of one thing - the speed at which our dishes were served. Let me explain.

Our waiter was fabulous at explaining the menu, suggesting dishes and even the amount we should order (he was bang on with respect to the latter). As the dishes are served tapas style (coming out in random order to be shared by all table mates) we expected them to nonetheless be evenly paced to allow for an enjoyable dining experience. We did start with the guacamole which is quite good (it could be a littler spicier) but we were barely done when our dishes started to arrive. No sooner was the first one put down that the four other dishes arrived in rapid succession. In less than twelve minutes all showed up and we were done within 35 minutes (didn't want them to get cold!). It's fair to say that this greatly diminished what was an excellent meal.

My suggestion - order the guacamole (or some other appetizers) when you place your drink order. Hold off ordering the rest of the dishes until after your appetizers have been consumed. While they may still arrive quickly at least you will have created a little breathing space.

As to the food, we didn't have one disappointing dish. Our favourites were the crab fritters (four small pieces), mexican style chorizo, barbacoa tacos and scallops. Keep in mind that the small bites are just that so if you're hungry you'll want to make sure your order primarily from the Especialidades de la Casa side of the menu.

Grab a table outside if you can (be forewarned that if you make a reservation on Open Table it will be for an indoor table, not the spacious outdoor patio).

And, yes, I would come back and I would order the classic margarita again as well.

  • Visited July 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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257 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Senior Contributor
27 reviews 27 reviews
6 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
83 helpful votes 83 helpful votes
“Great Vibe & Food”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2014

I've now been to El Catrin for lunch and dinner, the patio outside was bit of a wait but worth it as the outside was nice and spacious. The inside was very colourful with beautiful decor.

The food itself was tasty! The Guac is made right in front of you which is pretty neat and has a kick of spice which is nice for someone seeking flavour! The only thing I found lacking was the portion sizes, if you have a group you would have to get a couple of orders.

They have a wide selection of drinks however, I do find them a bit overpriced

  • Visited July 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto
Top Contributor
81 reviews 81 reviews
50 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
“Long wait, bad service, salty food”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2014

Arrived at El Catrin to wait over an hour to get on the patio so we could then find out that only half was open with multiple tables in the back sitting empty. They don't take reservations for the patio either. The patio is cool but tables are small and crowded and chairs are extremely uncomfortable. Another 20 min wait for staff to realize we had been sitting there waiting for service. After 90 min we finally had ordered a drink and some food. The food was average, nothing to warrant the wait or make up for bad service. The plates are small, expensive and the food is extremely salty. Both my other half and I left feeling thirsty, bloated and had severe stomach issues over night and into the next morning. If you use good ingredients you shouldn't have to drench the food in salt to give it taste. This place overall is not worth the wait or the money in a city like Toronto where there is many amazing restaurants to try.

  • Visited July 2014
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cork
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
“Great food, abysmal service but empathetic manageress”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 27, 2014

Tonight I visited El Catrin with my daughter and her fiancée as the culmination of our 7 day visit to Toronto. My daughter had been before and had nothing but positive things to say so our expectations were high .
We were very disappointed with many facets of the service - I believe that good service should be rewarded but elected not to tip on this occasion . I had no issue in paying my bill as the food in itself was excellent . I paid my bill and was about to leave when another server ( who I had not interaction with during the evening ) collected the tray , counted it and quickly returned to confront our party. He asked " is this it? You didn't leave a tip " we felt uncomfortable by his challenge and a manageress was directed by him to our table .
I have to say that this lady whose name I did not get, went above and beyond the call of duty in dealing with the situation . She is a huge asset to this establishment .
Overall , I would still recommend this restaurant for the food , ambience and location .

  • Visited July 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Toronto, Canada
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
“Food is VERY mediocre!”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 27, 2014

I expected much more from this restaurant, as it's gotten some good reviews. While the atmosphere is trendy, the food is BLAND and quite disappointing. I've had better salsa out of a jar, the guacamole was lacking flavour and the refried beans were just as plain as the rest of our dishes. If you're in the mood for authentic Mexican food, there are better options in Toronto. I suggest you try Milagro for flavour and value. El Catrin is over-priced and not worth the hype.

  • Visited July 2014
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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