El Tres — Thunder Bay’s New Mexican Joint

By Betty Carpick

El Tres, Thunder Bay’s long-awaited Mexican restaurant, opened its doors at 269 Red River Road on March 15 with a menu influenced by the energy of a food tradition built on using fresh, seasonal, local, and delicious ingredients.

Mexican cuisine began with Indigenous people in what is now central Mexico and South America with staples, such as corn, bean, squash, tomatoes, chili peppers, cacao, avocados, and vanilla. European colonization brought domesticated meat, dairy products (particularly queso, otherwise known as cheese), herbs, and spices.

El Tres merges the balance and sensibility of Mexican classics with Northwestern Ontario bravado. Dishes such as chiles rellenos, tamales, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, queso fundido, slow-braised brisket, carne asada, beef machaca, mole poblano, and whole fish will change throughout the year in keeping what is plentiful from the fields, farms, land, and water.

(L to R) Partners Bianca Garofalo, chef Allan Rebelo, and Katrina Oostveen

Partners Bianca Garofalo, chef Allan Rebelo, and Katrina Oostveen of Bight Restaurant + Bar and Giorg Cucine é Barra have had an adventurous year planning and prepping to bring their take on authentic Mexican for their third kitchen. Chef Rebelo staged at Bracero Cocina de Raiz in San Diego under Chef Javier Plascencia, renowned for interpreting the cuisine of Baja California with seasonal ingredients.

“Two Spanish-speaking Mexican ladies taught me how to make tortillas. Cooking was our shared language,” says Revelo. “Thanks to them, our house made tortillas at El Tres are fantastic.”

A deliberate balance of north and south also ups the ante at El Tres. Bight’s in-house baker, Anne Sharp, makes churros, spicy chocolate, and other sweet delights. Al Bourbouhakis from Thunder Bay’s Heartbeat Hot Sauce has created a signature hot sauce. Rose N Crantz Roasting Co. provides small batch coffee. The beverage program features an extensive portfolio of spirits, Mexican-inspired cocktails, and local craft beers on tap. Artist boy Roland

Mural by boy Roland

hand painted a bright Day of the Dead mural, and Brad Allam built the custom communal table.

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday, and dinner service on Saturday, this unpretentious eatery brings the family-style tradition of sharing plates and trying everything. Just in time for spring, we can finally look forward to a little heat and a lot of distinctive flavour.