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New Gringo restaurant brings ‘white trash tacos’ to North Vancouver

The restaurant’s Lower Lonsdale location promises an affordabe menu and unpretentious vibes
A neon sign reading ‘Taco Dirty To Me’ glows over restaurant partners Shoel Davidson and Sean Davis at the new Gringo location on 100 East Second St. in North Vancouver. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

If you’re looking for authentic fare inspired by the food carts and cocinas of Mexico, don’t go to Gringo.

But if reading a pun-infused menu full of tacos, burritos and $5 drinks, in a restaurant decorated with flamingos, primary-coloured beach buckets and neon signs stating Taco Dirty To Me sounds at all appealing, then Gringo might be your new favourite joint.

Opening its bright pink doors for the first time on Tuesday, the kitsch eatery has launched a new location on the corner of Second and Lonsdale in North Vancouver.

Diners familiar with Gringo’s longtime home in Blood Alley in Gastown, or more recently on Davie Street, will recognize the vibe and 1980s-’90s playlist bumping at the new restaurant. The 30-seat-indoor, 17-seat-patio capacity will also offer a cosy atmosphere familiar to past patrons.

But Gringo’s third instalment promises to be unique to the local neighbourhood as well.

“We don’t come into communities trying to get the community to fit to us, we’re going to try and adapt to the community,” said Sean Davis, president of Wooden Table Hospitality, which owns the Gringo restaurants.

Shoel Davidson, Davis’s partner and original founder of Gringo Gastown in 2013, said the whole idea behind the restaurant was to restore a sense of warmth that he felt had slowly slipped away in Vancouver.

“You’re a receipt number. You’re a table number. That’s it – you’re just a number,” Davidson said. “Obviously Gastown has a very strong community. I needed to believe that still existed in the city.”

That strong neighbourhood sensibility is true of North Van too, he said.

'We can’t really do authentic tacos – we’re not Mexican'

“We want [Gringo] to be absorbed by the community, not the other way around,” Davidson said.

Gringo Gastown has its idiosyncrasies. Davie Street has its own idiosyncrasies, Davis added. “And I have no doubt that over here, it will evolve and develop its own little idiosyncrasies.”

“Over the next six, 12, 14 months, you’ll probably see a little evolution of Gringo North Van,” said Davis, who grew up in North Vancouver and started his long career in the industry working in the kitchens of the now-defunct Czechoslovakian Restaurant and Pemberton Station Pub.

In stark contrast to a traditional Mexican restaurant, Gringo is unapologetically inauthentic.

“We can’t really do authentic tacos – we’re not Mexican,” said Davidson, whose mom raised him on Old El Paso salsas and meal kits. “[We] go with that angle of the white trash taco spot.”

On Gringo's food menu, you’ll find tacos starting at $4.20, burritos and quesadillas (a.k.a “dillas”) served in several varieties. Those include Wilbur (Mazatlán-style pork butt with pickled onions) and Kung Fu (Kung Pao-marinated tofu with vegan spicy mayo, lime slaw, green onions and sesame seeds).

For drinks, beers start at $4.99. The bar also showcases tequila, mescal, bourbon, shooters (see Bourbra Streisand and Rumiah Carey), cocktails such as Sex in the Alley, as well as non-alcoholic offerings.

Davis said the menu is priced as low as possible.

“It’s not a pretentious place,” he said. "If you want to come in and have a good time with your friends, whether you’re 19 or 65, 75 [years old], it doesn’t matter.

“It’s just a fun place to go.”