El Caracol Cafe

by KimHo on June 3, 2009 · 13 comments under: British Columbia,Food,Restaurant

El Caracol Cafe
5190 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC
El Caracol Cafe on Urbanspoon

Despite it has been barely a month or so after I came back from Panama, I started to long for Latin American food. Fried fish, tamales, fried plantain, ah… So, one night, I knew I wanted something Latin-American (but NOT Mexican). Sure, I could have gone to El Rinconcito Salvadoreño or El Inka Deli but that wouldn’t have made an interesting post, right? I almost resigned myself to go to Doña Cata when suddenly… Hey, does that place have a Spanish name? OK, let’s give it a try!

So I walk in and… I have written about this once and will mention about it again: When out of all people, a Chinese walk into a dive like this, everybody looks at me in a fashion similar to that of Western movies (i.e., when a “stranger” walks into the bar). Everything looks odd until I start to talk to them in Spanish, that is… Anyway, I think I have over-abused this story…

Cash only! No Public Restroom!

After I was seated and given the menu, the debate starts. What to order? Sure, they had some Mexican items (see note at the end of this post) but I was not interested in those. As I kept flipping the pages (only three items per page, as they have pictures of each dish), I could not really make up my mind until… Well, keep on reading to find out what, hehehehe.

After ordering, I end up striking a conversation with two Guatemalans (if I am not mistaken). Of course, the topic ends up being where I learned Spanish and differences between the food in the different nearby countries. But soon their food arrived, as well as my drink.

This is horchata. Long time ago, I found out the hard way that, although the basic of this drink is the same, i.e., water/milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices (usually nutmeg), the “distinct” part is that it can be made with oats (usually grounded, almost like flour) or rice (also grounded). The end result can be different (i.e., different texture and taste). I myself haven’t had this in a long while, that’s why I ordered it, despite I knew it wouldn’t really match my main. And what is that?

Yes, that is a whole fish! According to the menu, it is called mojarra frita; however, to make it easy to everybody, the fish itself is tilapia. I know that a lot of people won’t eat it this way, i.e., they are used to filets. But, reality is, until you have eaten fish like this, believe me, you are missing the real thing… Sure, you will have to fight with the bones, just that bones results in flavour. In this case, they over-fried it a bit (the meat was starting to be dry); otherwise, it is something I can be eating every other day – if not EVERY day… As for the sides, well, I would rather not “talk” about it, as the key part is the fish.

Overall, that fried fish managed to put that Latin-American food craving aside. But, I am sure it will be a matter of time. Would I come back? It suddenly seems I am on the quest of the best whole, single-serving fried fish and this place made the grade despite its shortcomings.

(Sidenote: a couple of doors north, there is also El Caracolito, which focuses more on Mexican food. There is a reason why the name similarity: the owner is the same…)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 raidar June 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

Some days your pictures are enough to cure my craving for Latin America. Muchas gracias!

2 Jessica June 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm

I was at El Caracol a couple years ago with a group – from what I remember, all their appys (flautas, tostadas, burritos) were great, but the most widely enjoyed appy was of course, the papusas. They were cheap too, from what I remember. Hopefully the management has remained the same.

3 Sherman June 3, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Cool post Kim. It’s always nice to walk into a restaurant not knowing what to expect. I love the Spanish part. Surprised looks are priceless.

4 KimHo June 3, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Raidar, de nada! Quien sabe, repentinamente encuentre un buen restaurante alla que sirva comida Latino Americana!

Jessica, I can’t say if they have changed hands but, regardless, the food was good! ^_^

Sherman, too bad, if you speak Cantonese/Mandarin in a Chinese restaurant, nobody will be surprised; instead, they *expect* you to speak it! XD (Insert “I can’t read the Chinese menu joke here”).

5 Sherman June 3, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Actually Kim, out here in Delta, people do get confused looks when I walk in and start speaking Cantonese. I guess the restaurants in Delta are not used to real Chinese people frequenting them…

6 Kevin June 4, 2009 at 1:58 pm

El Caracol was one of my first posts! The owner is still the same, and yea she owns El Caracolito, as sort of an alternative/typical mex-tex kind of place.

Can’t believe you came here and didn’t get pupusas..shame on you =P.

Mmmmmm need to remember to go to Rinconcito soon.. I have to write down where I need to go because I get lazy and end up at the same places over and over again.

7 KimHo June 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Kevin, on some things, I have absolutely no shame… :P As you mentioned, if I wanted pupusas, most probably I would have ended up going to El Rinconcito Salvadoreño instead…

8 _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver March 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

You didn’t even try the pupusas?!! =P I had the oats milkshake. WOuld you happen to know how that’s usually made?

9 KimHo March 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm

TS, no because, if I want pupusas, I would go to Rinconcito Salvadoreño instead! ;)

Milkshake? Are you sure you are not referring to the horchata? If you, you made it once yourself!

10 _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver March 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

re Pupusas: But how do you know the ones here aren’t good as well?! Yup, it was a milkshake. It seems like they just used raw oats and added it to a milkshake. Reminded me of “wheat” flavor bubble teas. In any case, I liked.

11 KimHo March 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm

TS, pupusas is a Salvadorean dish and the people running Rinconcito Salvadoreño is from that country. I can’t say the same for El Caracol. However, if you had it and tell me it is really good, I am more than willing to give it a try.

12 Giselle B June 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

The owner of El Caracol is from el salvador and the pupusas are good!! You can even try the chicken pupusas now! they also made some cheese and zucchini pupusas which are very very popular in parts of el salvador!

13 KimHo June 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

Giselle, welcome! Thanks for the update; when I inquired during my visit, I was told the owner was from Mexico. Now, does it apply to El Caracol o the other one in the same block, three/four doors away?

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