A new Latino street food spot lands along the posh King West strip
Solid Design and Build’s Ian Rydberg, co-creator of La Carnita’s hipster grunge aesthetic, has pulled off a nifty feat of visual deception with Valdez. The casual Latino street food spot (and former police stable) offers welcome respite from the starched swish of King Street West hot spots. And what appears to be a tasteful assemblage of salvaged pieces is entirely custom; Valdez’s deliberately worn-in look inspires relaxation and celebrates both the chef’s and location’s roots.
A trio of brown oak arches behind the green marble bar feels ripped from a mid-century South American cathedral (it’s not). Along the open kitchen, brass light fixtures inspired by lampposts, coupled with large windows overlooking an alleyway, evoke a street market atmosphere. Other subtle nods to Latin culture abound: Dining chairs painted in the yellow, red and blue of Colombia’s flag; and the obligatory mural of the Virgin Mary, cheekily positioned beside liquor cabinets filled with tequila, mescal and pisco. The foyer is styled as a Central American exchange, complete with a Cuban cigar rolling table from around the corner at Correnti and hand-painted lettering you might see on a wall in Bogotá.
Steve Gonzalez, the affable jokester from Top Chef Canada’s first season, bucks the tiring taco trend for more inventive Nuevo Latino fare. Addictive pork-and-potato empanadas arrive in a kitschy, crinkled-up paper bag ($9); and ceviches like ahi tuna with watermelon or pickled ginger and ponzu ($17) are a promiscuous blend of Asian and Latin flavours. Chaufa, a Peruvian take on Chinese fried rice, gets a luxe boost with rich strands of duck confit ($17). Washed down with an icy Negra Modelo ($6), its every bit as greasy and satisfying as you’d hope.