Quickbite: Dona Cata Mexican Foods

November 26th, 2006 · 20 Comments

Dona CataDona Cata Mexican Foods
Address: 5438 Victoria Drive (map)
Phone: 604-436-2232

Quickbite: Dona Cata Mexican Foods

November 26th, 2006
By Jason Chin

Vancouver, it would appear, is beginning to emerge from a taco dark age. Establishments featuring this popular Mexican street food are popping up at rate that was unimaginable just a year ago. A good deal of this action is going on around Victoria Drive, to the extent that if a few more Mexican shops open around between 35th and 38th avenues, a little Mexico may be born. The newest Mexican restaurant in this area is Dona Cata.

Dona Cata is dressed up in the colors of the Mexican flag (red, white and green), with a few cute paintings on the wall, emblematic of traditional Mexicana. Expect drawings of matadors and tequila bottles, which coincidentally is exactly the spirit I would require prior to engaging in a bullfight. The centerpiece is a portrait of the late Dona Cata herself. I’m not quite sure what the story here is, and although the portrait certainly can be a very sobering presence, it’s hard to fault this family-run business for honoring the memory of someone who was clearly a loved one [Eat Vancouver reader Lucy adds that the owners are the third generation relatives of Dona Cata, who was in the business for 45 years. They are using the same recipes, as well as dedication to wild spices and herbs – the chicken mole includes over 40 ingredients. I know what I’ll be trying next time I’m there.] Tacos are assembled from precooked meats at the back of the restaurant, just behind a selection of 5-10 freshly made sauces.

The sauces are truly this restaurant’s main selling point, both for their quality and the variety involved. To be honest, I don’t have the knowledge of Mexican food to list out the sauces here, but the variety alone promotes really fun experimentation. Some are based on dried chilies, other on fresh chilies, yet both styles present interesting flavors. My favorites include the one labeled “avocado,” which is a very spicy blend of jalapeño and avocado, and a recent peanut sauce, the peanut lending an excellent dry saltiness to the mix.

Taco @ Dona CataThe food itself is quite good, and actually quite complementary to Chilo’s Taqueria y Mariscos a few blocks down. Like Chilo’s, Dona Cata sells tacos at a reasonable $1.25 (now $1.50, or $2 with cheese – “con queso”) and they happen to be significantly larger than those at Chilo’s. That’s not to say Chilo’s doesn’t have its place, such as in the world of seafood – Chilo’s currently offers one of the best shrimp cocktails in town.

The tacos at Dona Cata are very good and there a few that you just can’t get a Chilo’s. My favorite is the Al Palstor, a combination of pork and various sweet and savory spicing, with a tropical note coming from pineapple. The Longaniza is also good, a spicy blend of ground pork and various spices I can’t quite put my finger on.

I’d stick to the tacos, however, as other offerings have been somewhat lackluster. The quesadilla, for example, is pretty boring – white Mexican cheese between two tortillas – and nothing you couldn’t make at home in a few minutes.

Although the tacos are the highlight of the menu, the most fun is to be had in playing around with the different sauces. Each time I go, my friends and I seem to find another “mind-blowing” flavor combination:

Dude, the peanut sauce with carnitas is amazing.”

“No way dude, tomatillo and pork is a classic combination.”

Clearly there is no right answer here, and that’s the fun of Dona Cata.

Dona Cata on Urbanspoon

Tags: Mexican · Quick Bites

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 flowbee // Nov 27, 2006 at 11:36 am

    nice review!

    people should definitely try their house-made drinks as well: horchata (cools down the heat quite well) and jamaica flower (prn: yah-mai-ca).

    btw, i find the peanut and avocado salsas to be on the bottom end of the spicy scale. their green chilie “macha” salsa on the other hand is pretty freakin hot.

  • 2 Jason // Nov 27, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Hey flowbee,

    Agreed on the drinks – i should have mentioned that. slipped my mind because they didn’t have horchata last time i was there, need to try that jamaica flower though for sure.

    peanut sauce isn’t spicy at all, but i was getting some significant heat from the avocado last time. loved it. there are spicer ones though.


  • 3 lucy // Nov 29, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    hi, i know the history the young owner of the restaurant told me that her grand mother was running the bussines in mexico for more than 45 years, and they are the 3rd. generation now keepind the original flavour, and recipes as a secret, using wild spices and herbs,they have some much to offer, like mole con pollo, 40 ingredients in one sauce!!!!!!its delicious!!!

  • 4 Jason // Nov 29, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    That’s amazing Lucy. Thanks for the info.

    Do you mind if I add it to the main post?

  • 5 lucy // Nov 29, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    of course jason anytime…..or go and ask for the history they are a really nice people….

  • 6 ANTONIO CORTEZ // Jan 8, 2007 at 10:08 am

    hola Brenda:

    Como estas? ya encontre tu pagina, me da mucho gusto saber que te vaya muy bien; te lo mereces. espero me contestes este mensaje para saber que ya lo recibiste.

    te mando un beso y un abrazo enorme de igual manera para mi cuñado y la nena.

  • 7 Mark // Feb 20, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    How the hell can a chinese person do a review on a mexican rest. Obviously…. he has a one track mind. Give it up buddy… your reveiws are bullshit. Stick to what you know best…. CHINESE FOOD!

  • 8 sean // May 3, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    is this place licensed? I enjoy a cold XX with my tacos

  • 9 Jason // May 4, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Hey Sean,

    I don’t believe it is, but perhaps another poster knows for sure. Flowbee?

  • 10 julie // May 5, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    hey mark,
    tacos out of the dark age but not you, you close minded loser!

  • 11 ANDREA CASTREJON // Jul 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm


  • 12 Doogie Howser // Aug 29, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I’m going to try this place today.

  • 13 Jason // Aug 29, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    sounds great doogie. i’d love to hear what you think.

  • 14 lucy // Nov 30, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    hi do you know that a new and big dona cata is coming….with new menu and liquor license?

  • 15 Jason // Dec 1, 2007 at 1:19 am

    i have not heard that yet. what are the details? i’m excited!

  • 16 lucy // Dec 6, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    5076 vistoria drive two blocks from the original, tacos as usual and new menu too, is coming on december 12 they have a add on the restaurant…….

  • 17 Gustavo Antonio Franco Sanchez // Apr 14, 2008 at 7:06 am

    hola Miss
    soy su alumno de la escuela antonio caso en cuautla espero que se acuerde de mi y de angeles le deseo lo mejor cuidese
    bye please me responde

  • 18 kERY // Apr 28, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Tengo un par de comentarios, uno bueno,y uno no tan bueno, pero que probablemente le ayudara a “tacos Doña Cata” a ganar mas clientes.

    1ro. Las salsas, me parecieron super buenas, especialmente la que prparan con limon, chilitos verdes y cebollitas. Muy ricas todas las salsas, principalmente; La forma en la que resentan los tacos es muy padre, muy colorida y en original tamaño (tortilla taquera)

    2do. Me parecio un poco condimentada la carne. No se si sea mucho comino, o mucha pimienta, o mucho que se yo condimento, pero no recuerdo los tacos asi de condimentados en nuestra tierra querida. No se si Doña Cata sea originaria del norte de Mexico, es posible, y tal vez eso explique la alta cantidad de condimento en los tacos, incluso en la longaniza y el pollo.
    Espero taqueria Doña Cata lea esta pagina y considere este mensaje como una sugerencia de mejora. Por favor no tanta especie en los tacos. Eso haria sus tacos, no solo ricos, sino perfectos!! Al menos para mi estomao y el de muchos amigos que han visitado el lugar y que tuvieron que tomarse su tiempo para recuperar el estomago.

  • 19 brenda cortes // May 13, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    hola gracias por tu comentario lo tomaremos en cuanta nos encanta saber lo que opinan los clientes para mejorar nuestra calidad siempre somos originarios en mexico y como tu sabes cada region tiene su cocina bien marcada , no somos los clasico tacos de la calle son recetas especiales tambien tenemos alambres y otros platillo los invitamos a probarlos y suerte…gracias

  • 20 MARTIN AVILES // May 26, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    hola amigos ya veo ke les esta llendo muy bien me da mucho gusto y emocion me acorde ke tenian un restaurant y losbuske y ay veo ke tieneen bastante seguidores felicidades bueno ke esten muy bien BRENDA Y GENER(GIGI) saludos a jimenita

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