Cocina Economica is the fifth in the family of Playa Cabana restaurants, following the successes of the original Playa Cabana (and adjoining patio La Libre), Cantina, Hacienda, and Barrio Correano, two of which we visited recently in the last year. Cocina Economica is the first Playa Cabana to open on the east side, in the heart of Toronto’s Corktown district.

To prepare for his new restaurant, Executive Chef and owner David Sidhu travelled with his team to Mexico to learn about the family-run cocina economicas. They returned from this trip with experience and knowledge to produce authentic Mexican fare, as well as items to furnish the new restaurant to give it a true Mexican feel. The space is quite intimate, decorated with fiesta-coloured tapestries, hand-painted clay pottery, and lots of patterns and textures. Cocina Economica can currently seat 34 inside, and 20 outside on the front patio, with additional seating available upstairs (including a second patio) later this summer.

Chef de cuisine Samantha Valdivia, hailing from Cancun City, Mexico, joins Sidhu in the kitchen. The first item we sampled was a delicious beef consomm√©, which had a very flavourful broth with just the right amount of heat. The slow-cooked meats, including lamb barbacoa, cochinita pibil, and beef in salsa verde, were tasty and very tender. These are served with baked or fried tostadas, fresh corn tortillas, and various salsas and accoutrements. If you’re a vegetarian, there is the vegetarian chorizo and the nopales (cactus) for you to try.

The desserts were also quite delicious. The alfajores is a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche as the filling, and then rolled in coconut. The filling’s sweetness was balanced by the soft and crumbly cookies. The tres leches (three milks) cake was my favourite dessert. It was extremely moist and flavourful; I could have kept eating this all night.

Along with food, Cocina Economica hopes to be known for its drinks as well. It houses Toronto’s first true mezcaleria, with over 20 imported single species mezcals. For those that don’t know, a mezcal differs from a tequila as they are produced in different regions of Mexico, using a different techniques. While tequila is limited to the Blue Agave by law, mezcals can be made using over 30 other species of agave. Tequila, a full cocktail list (which includes mezcalinas), agua frescas, and made-from-scratch horchatas, are also available.

With the warm weather returning and the long weekends of the summer coming up, Cocina Economica is a great Mexican restaurant to visit in Corktown. Hours are from 11am to 11pm from Wednesday to Sunday. For more information:
Twitter: @PlayaCabana #CocinaEconomica
Instagram: @PlayaCabana #CocinaEconomica
Facebook: PlayaCabana1

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.