La Cantina Nesters now serving Mexican breakfast 

Owner Pepe Barajas says he wanted to offer an 'authentic' taste of his homeland

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - DELICIOUS DESAYUNOS 'I haven't had any good Mexican eggs in town, so I thought we could probably be the ones bringing an authentic Mexican breakfast to Whistler,' says La Cantina owner Pepe Barajas.
  • Photo submitted
  • DELICIOUS DESAYUNOS 'I haven't had any good Mexican eggs in town, so I thought we could probably be the ones bringing an authentic Mexican breakfast to Whistler,' says La Cantina owner Pepe Barajas.

Pepe Barajas has a hankering for eggs. But not just any ol' eggs will do.

"I love Mexican breakfast and I haven't had any good Mexican eggs in town, so I thought we could probably be the ones bringing an authentic Mexican breakfast to Whistler," said Barajas, owner of La Cantina and The Mexican Corner.

There were probably easier ways to satiate his cravings for the cooking of his homeland, but Barajas has never been one to back down from a challenge. The serial entrepreneur—he has launched seven companies since immigrating to Canada—began offering Mexican-style breakfast at La Cantina Nesters this week, dishes that reminds him of lazy weekend meals with his family in Mexico City.

"Personally, it just brings back memories (of) when my parents were cooking at home on weekends and it was the family gathering all day around the table. It brings back those memories of sharing a meal together," he said.

The new menu is extremely affordable, with no dish priced higher than $10.95, and offers a handful of desayunos staples. You've got the classic huevos rancheros, made from sunny side-up eggs on crispy corn tortillas, slathered in a homemade tomatillo and ranchera sauce. There's huevos a la Mexicana, scrambled eggs served with diced tomato, onion and cilantro. There's even a Mexican take on the classic eggs benedict, switching out the usual sauce with a spicy chipotle hollandaise, topped with minced crispy bacon.

But the centrepiece of La Cantina's new menu is probably the chilaquiles verde, a traditional Mexican dish made from lightly fried tortillas, cut in quarters and smothered in refried beans, green tomatillo salsa, sour cream and queso fresco. It's served with your choice of pulled chicken, eggs or tofu. La Cantina also offers several vegetarian and vegan dishes, including scrambled tofu, and a veggie omelette made with mushrooms, onion, corn, spinach and mozzarella in a creamy poblano sauce.

Barajas said it was important the flavours weren't toned down for the Whistler palate.

"Our aim was to do it authentic, so we are not changing anything. We want to bring an authentic Mexican breakfast, just as if you were in Mexico," Barajas said. "I am always happy when I have Mexicans or people living in California, and they go to either La Cantina or Mexican Corner and love it—and even mention it's better than the food they have tried down there."

For the less adventurous, however, the menu does features a number of Western-style breakfast items, such as French toast, oatmeal and a yogurt parfait.

Barajas sees La Cantina Nesters filling a gap in the market that was left open after Lift Coffee Co. closed its doors last year.

"Knowing that the main chunk of the business from Lift Coffee was coming from breakfast, we thought there was an opportunity for us to capitalize on that, because locals were constantly asking for breakfast at that location when it shut down," explained Barajas.

Along with locations at Nesters and Marketplace, La Cantina also counts a restaurant in Downtown Vancouver, where Barajas said they have had to work hard to stand out in a market overflowing with excellent Mexican cuisine.

"We all are fighting for the same base client. Down there, we have to be a bit more aggressive with our marketing strategies ... and we also changed a little bit the way La Cantina operates," he said.

Unlike the Whistler locations, La Cantina on Nelson Street now offers table service in the evenings.

"At Nesters, for a lot of people, it's just grab and go. Over (in Vancouver), we are right downtown, where people tend to stay a little longer for dining at night," Barajas added.

Along with the food, another constant at all of La Cantina's locations are the colourful murals on the walls, done freehand by artist Irving Cano, depicting famous luchadores throughout Mexican history. Wrestling being an integral part of Mexican culture, Barajas compared its unifying power to food.

"That sport is used to bring families together. Families in Mexico go to watch the fights and all the family would go there, they would have a meal there and everyone is yelling and just releasing from a stressful week," he said. "I compare it to the restaurants where food brings people together. Having these colourful murals, I think it's a part of Mexican culture that is nice to share."

La Cantina Nesters is now serving breakfast and brunch from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

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