Eating & Drinking

TAKE IT OUTSIDE: Ottawa’s top chefs fight for bragging rights at the foodie playground known as TacoLot

Photography by Photoluxstudio.com - Christian Lalonde.

By Shawna Wagman

I wish I could explain the romance between chefs and tacos. Who knows why career cooks do not display equal fervour for, say, eggrolls or grilled cheese sandwiches. Perhaps the myriad creative possibilities for soft-shelled tacos, traditional Mexican finger food, just get their juices flowing. And maybe that’s why when Jon Reilly-Roe, a local courier company owner by day and rock ’n’ roll singer by night, got tired of waiting around for one of his chef buddies to open a taco stand, the self-proclaimed “food guy” did it himself.

TacoLot opened in March with a rotating menu inspired by the fresh-not-fried California tradition. Overnight, a cinder-block building on a functioning used-car lot in Hintonburg became Foodie Central.

And now that it’s here, the city’s chefs can’t stay away. One by one, they came knocking on TacoLot’s door. This led Reilly-Roe to launch Chef’s Playground, a friendly cooking competition under the banner he originally wanted for his shop. It started back in July with Matthew Carmichael as guest chef and has been running on Sunday afternoons ever since, with TacoLot hosting a different guest each week. Their signature tacos are served, while quantities last, from about 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. All profits go to charity. Here’s a sneak peek at the fall schedule:

Sept. 2:René Rodriguez, Navarra

Photography by Photoluxstudio.com - Christian Lalonde.

Sept. 9: Joe Juarez, Canvas

Sept. 16: Ian Baillaron, The Black Tomato

Sept. 23: Kathy Smart, Live the Smart Way (TV show)

Sept. 30: Chris Lord, Union: Local 613

Oct. 7: Thanksgiving turkey tacos and cranberry salsa

Oct. 14: James Foley, 10Fourteen

Oct. 21: Patricia Larkin, Black Cat Bistro

Oct. 28: Kris Kshonze, The Hintonburg Public House

999 Wellington St. W., 613-286-3322, www.facebook.com/theTacoLot

This article was first featured in the September 2012 edition. See more photographs in the print edition.