After growing up in the south and living in Texas for five years, I have a soft spot for Mexican food (both authentic and Tex Mex). Unfortunately, until very recently, Calgary has been a wasteland for Mexican food. Most places range somewhere between taco bell and overpriced taco bell. Many in Calgary don’t notice or mind because that is the only option. Having known better and having had a huge amount of choice, going for Mexican often left me feeling like an angry toddler whose mom cut their sandwich in triangles instead of squares. I had an issue but also realized I probably should just get over it. Thankfully, things have gotten better. Let me introduce you to the best Mexican restaurant in Calgary (in my opinion of course).
Native Tongues is a smallish room attached to the Fairfield Inn and Suites. The space is maximized by small bar height tables, a full service counter and two community tables. However, it has gotten popular so there is often a wait. Don’t want to wait? You can grab your food to go from their take out window right inside the door.
Their menu is a blend of appetizer plates to share, individual tacos and build your own tacos served family style. Everything we have had is exceptional on the scale for tastiness. My only quibbles with some dishes are how expensive they are for what you get (but..it’s Calgary so what do you expect?).
Well, enough talking…here are my favorite dishes in pictures!
First up…Appetizers (Antojitos)
Chilaquiles – Menu description: totopos, salsa verde & fresca, crema, queso fresco, cilantro. Hands down my favorite dish on their menu. OMG…so good. Crispy chips tossed in salsa verde with queso fresco and crema on top. You will not be disappointed.
Chips and Guacamole – Their guacamole is made in kitchen and is divine. However, I think $13 is a bit rich for this appy. Instead. I recommend getting the chiliquiles and a side of guacamole ($3.50 for a smaller serving) instead.
Gambas al Carbon – Menu description: grilled whole prawns, chilmole butter, lime. Seriously one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. The sauce is a butter based mole. So full of flavor without being hot. You will find yourself dipping chips and anything else on hand in it before you let the server take it away. I will say, peeling the shrimp is a pain in the butt but once I tasted them I forgot all the work.
Next up….Tacos de Guisado
All Tacos de Guisado are currently $3.95 each on their menu.
Hongos – Menu Description: locally cultivated mushrooms, kale, cream, queso fresco, cilantro. So good that you don’t even miss the meat. I enjoyed the earthiness of the mushrooms the best in this taco.
Chorizo con Papas – Menu description: chorizo rojo, potatoes, white onion, cilantro. You may remember that we are a fan of this flavor combo from my Sopes with Papas con Chorizo. This taco does not disappoint. The chorizo hits all the right notes and blends well with the accompanying salsas.
Carnitas – Menu description: confit pork, white onion, cilantro. Everything you can want or expect from a carnitas taco.
Tacos al Carbon – Grilled over charcoal & served Mercado Style (Family Style).
Served family style and perfect for two but you have to be willing to wait up to 30 minutes for it to be prepared. If you have the time it is worth the wait.
Pollo Asado – Menu description: grilled chicken, frijoles, grilled romaine & tomato salad, crema, queso fresco, cilantro. This is truly a meal in a bowl. You will get 3, 4 or more tacos from this. Note, though, that there is more stuff than there is meat so ration the meat out between your tacos. We didn’t do so well at this and I ended up eating quite a few been and salad tacos (not that I am complaining!).
Postres – Dessert
I’d heard amazing things about their house made donuts. It was good but not amazing. Evan gave it two thumbs up of course.
And whatever you do, don’t forget the cocktails! On our last visit, I tried their special Compari Margarita. Every cocktail we’ve ordered has been delicious and perfectly paired with the cuisine.
One final note, while not “kid friendly” per se. We have had Evan with us both times we dined here. He loves the chips and the chicken tacos (no onions, no cilantro thank you very much). It is a loud room so a little kid noise won’t be noticed. However, the tables are close, shared and/or tall so babies in a bucket seat may not be overly convenient.
So where do you find it?
Best Mexican Restaurant Calgary – Native Tongues
235 12th Ave. SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1H7
Open Sun – Thurs, 11:30am – 11:00pm & Fri – Sat, 11:30am – 1:00am