Look out Toronto, there is a fabulous Mexican restaurant in town and its name is Wilbur Mexicana. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Wilbur’ is most definitely not a Mexican name. Does a Mexican restaurant really need a Mexican name? What if the name of the restaurant was related to an important ingredient used in Mexican cooking?
Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacist, is the man who measured the piquancy of chile peppers while working for Parke-Davis pharmaceutical in 1912; now know as the Scoville scale.
Once you know about Wilbur Scoville and his work measuring the piquancy of chile peppers, the design of Wilbur’s Mexicana makes complete sense. What I received to be yet another hipster-industrial restaurant, changed before my eyes. I soon realized that the white tiled tables with woodblock tops resemble laboratory tables, complete with rustic steel stools. The floor to ceiling wood shelves displaying dried peppers and condiments, and rolling ladder, has an almost apothecary feel. A closer look at the lights reveals beakers being used; not those hipster mason jars that are close to being overdone at this point.
Stools line the order counter, but this is not a place to eat, this is a place for takeaway customers to relax and watch the action in the open concept kitchen. Further down the counter is an impressive display of hot sauces, followed by a salsa bar containing salsa that is made in-house on a daily basis. The hot sauce and salsas are condiment staples and customers are encouraged to try as many as they want (and yes, they can even take a little home with them), free of charge.
The menu? Wilbur Mexicana is considered a fast-casual restaurant, meaning fast food prices, with the luxury of a beautifully casual dining space. A relatively new restaurant (opened November 2014), the menu is small but delicious. Noshing on homemade chips with guacamole and queso is a must with every meal; then again it is hard to pass up the Mexican corn. And the tacos? Gourmet, full of flavour, and served in hard shells – there are options for those who are celiac and eat gluten-free – the tacos are only $3.75 each. Time to give Taco Bell the finger and break up with them, for good! Of course, they also have fajitas, burritos, and quesadilla. This is a Mexican restaurant!
Visiting Wilbur Mexicana during the week can be a lesson in patience. Why? It is BUSY. Like insanely busy. If you have a limited lunch hour, grab your food to go and find a spot in the sun or head back to work and eat. If time is not an issue for you, dine in! Personally, I’ll wait until the weekend to visit Wilbur Mexicana; I love sitting in a sunny space, savouring the meal in front of me, and planning what to eat on my next visit.
552 King Street West, Toronto