I strolled into Mezcal Tacos and Tequila on James St South on Friday at 6:00. Not long after I browsed the restaurant’s new menu in search of their spring items, the space quickly filled up with visitors wanting a taste of this new Mexican-inspired eatery.
Mezcal TNT opened just two months ago by Chef Manny Ferreira, Hamilton native and recent Chopped Canada winner.
Chef Manny is definitely acquainted with the Hamilton restaurant scene, having worked at the YMCA, Slainte Irish Pub, The Rude Native, Ancaster Old Mill, and Earth to Table Bread Bar.
“I didn’t always want to be a chef. I had aspirations of being and actor or entertainer of sorts. After [graduating from Cathedral] high school, I worked a number of jobs: construction, landscaping, Maple Leaf pork in the “kill floor” and a couple years in a steel factory, but knew I had more to offer than physical labor. I recalled my mother cooking and the scent of food always interested me. I chose cooking because it allowed me to be creative, show my personality, and create something that others enjoyed which in turn satisfied my “entertainer” side. There’s never a dull moment in the kitchen,” he recalls.
His experience working in kitchens prepared him to open a restaurant of his own and even go on to win 10K to support Mezcal TNT and his son, Anthony.
“Competing in the Chopped kitchen was intense to say the least. Not knowing what was in the mystery basket was nerve racking. When the basket opens and you see the ingredients, immediately your mind gets flooded with a ton of different ideas going in multiple directions.”
On May 1, Mezcal TNT launched their spring menu, featuring a new set of basket ingredients. This seasonal overhaul is something they hope to continue to keep their menu fresh.
“What’s unique about Mezcal’s food is that we aren’t ‘authentic’ Mexican. I say this because we use ingredients that are not only from Mexico and Latin America but what is grown locally as well.”
Now there is a separate lunch and dinner menu, a snack menu, and new tacos and desserts.
The “Triple C” was launched when Chef Manny’s victory was announced. It features Chopped Canada fried chicken, peanut mole, pineapple salsa, and crema.
Other new tacos include the Cool Crab (bibb lettuce, guacamole, jalapeno, bacon, radish), Mini Skirt (skirt steak, romesco, black bean puree, charred ramps), and the Wild Boar (ground boar, house smoked cheddar, crema, charred tomato salsa, bibb lettuce), a play on the traditional taco. Old favourites like the Carnita (braised pork butt), Crispy Cauliflower, and Pork Belly are still on the menu.
I tried the new Shrimp taco (dirty rice, avocado tomatillo salsa, chili coco lime crema, pea shoots). Verdict: Delicious.
Tacos are $6 each or 3 for $15. They can be made into tortas (a Mexican sandwich) for lunch or burritos for dinner ($9).
Other items like the Mexican Cobb Salad ($11), Tres Dips sharing plate ($11) and seasonally inspired Blue Corn Quesadillas ($9) are also new.
On the dinner menu, Mezcal TNT just introduced the slow braised Lamb Flautas ($11) rolled into a tortilla, fried to crisp, and served on dirty rice, Citrus Cured King Salmon ($14) served with shaved fennel and asparagus, and one of my favourites: Mexican Roulette ($10). Love spice? Order this plate of padron peppers and chorizo, but remember you’ll have mild and very spicy ones mixed in, and you won’t know which one is which.
For dessert, I opted for the Bunuelo ($7) topped with dolce de leche, mapleton’s organic vanilla ice cream, coconut, and orange-zest-and-booze-infused chocolate (instead of the chocolate banana brownie, which just means I’ll have to come back.)
Mezcal TNT has a cozy atmosphere with a capacity of just 30 guests, a fantastic team of staff, and of course, an impressive repertoire of blanco, reposado, anejo and mezcal.
Chef Manny’s personal favourite taco combo (that isn’t on the menu) is braised pork carnita, pineapple, dirty rice, crema and cotija cheese. His go-to tequila drink is a Don Julio anejo with a solid cube of ice in a rocks glass.
If you haven’t visited Mezcal TNT, it’s time to be part of the fiesta. DTF (down to fiesta) takes place every day from 3-6pm. Stop in for cheaper margaritas, caesars, coronita and shot of tequila as well as $5 tacos or 3 for $13 specials.
Experience DTF all day long at Cinco de Mayo on May 5th as well as a mariachi band and giveaways!
Visit Mezcal TNT at 150 James St South.