The journey to The Happy Mexican is a worthy one. Follow the signs from Franklin Street down a quiet laneway, up some steps and up a lift to discover the colourful sky-high bar and diner. While it’s a little more hidden than its Abbotsford counterpart, it’s no less eye-catching. The large, open space stands out against the office buildings with festive yellow umbrellas, Fiesta del Sol flags, geometric flooring and pastel shipping containers.

The colourful theme extends to the menu, which features owner Julian Romero’s popular tacos. They might be generously topped with slow-cooked pork and grilled pineapple; flathead with pickled cabbage and a garlic and habanero mayo; and tender cactus with Mexican potato and pickled onion. Also on its menu are quesabirrias (two corn tortillas stuffed with Jalisco-style slow-cooked beef, melted Oaxaca cheese and served with a broth for dipping) and crisp tostadas.

You’ll also find seafood dishes, which may be a Mexican-style prawn cocktail with house-made salsa, or octopus ceviche marinated in fresh lime juice. Pair it all with a Mexican beer or a classic Margarita (there are also variations made with mezcal, jalapeno or lychee), or go for a non-alcoholic horchata or a sweet-sour tamarindo.

Romero was born in Colombia and later moved to Los Angeles, making frequent trips to Mexico City to see friends and relatives. At this 200-capacity venue he strives to create a year-round fiesta – with open, undercover and enclosed areas to greet all seasons.

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Updated: January 29th, 2024

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