The 1500 block of NE Alberta is just plain ugly. Defiantly so, in the face of the gussification rising up all around. It will all be Little Big Burgers and twee galleries soon, but for now it's a hodge-podge of salvage mechanics, toppling houses, and BMX kids who seem to have been saving up spit since July. In the middle of the cacophony is a little new cart pod, three strong, with a few more looking to open soon.
Tacos Pa'Ella, Margarita's Recipes, and KP's Kick'n Grill are the pioneer class here. It was Margarita's banner advertising something like RAVIOLI, AREPAS, EMPANADAS, SPAGHETTI, SAUTEED BROCCOLI that gave me the mental discord necessary to pull over, and I'm glad I did.
Normally I'd think a menu assortment like that looked insane... or, in the case of the houses we grew up in, normal. My mom makes all those things, along with stir-fry, pot roast, tacos, and bacon-on-a-plate. Why can't Margarita's Recipes—whose name suggests a woman and some recipes she is proud of—go scattershot, so long as everything's worth sharing?
An earnest and respectful man in a red chef's coat proudly answered my questions (ravioli are stuffed in house, empanadas built in house, gluten-less and vegan options aplenty), and I went with a beef arepa ($4) and chicken/potato empanadas (5/$4). The food costs way too little. It felt like a bit of an insult to hand over so few bills for all this...and it was good. The braised beef on the arepa was beefy and well-textured, not boiled old stuff. The arepa itself was thick with a crisp griddled bottom, and covered in a napkin of melted jack cheese. Solid flavors, and good value for money. The empanadas were visually perfect (see photo below), greaseless, with a tender texture and savory filling. He needs to charge at least a dollar each for these. It's 2013. Anyhow, I'll definitely be back, because I respect the place.
The second cart I tried was KP's Kick'n Grill - another mixed-up comfort food theme. Six gourmet burgers ($9 including a large serving of decent fries) share a menu with deep-fried wings, a quesadilla, and six fettucine dishes. As I had literally eaten fettucine fairly recently, I went for a cheeseburger. The hand-formed patty had minced onions mixed in with the meat, which helped the roughly 1/3lb patty develop a respectable char. If you're looking for a burger lunch on Alberta, this is an honest, classic offering that's a good size for the money.
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