The team behind Corduroy Pie Company has taken its unabashedly neighbourhood-friendly approach to the mean streets of Dunbar with Cantina Pana (conveniently, “corduroy” in Spanish) and a tight menu that riffs hard on Baja California-style tacos. Students from nearby St. George’s pile in for lunch, while dinner is dominated by families enjoying the smartly constructed flavours and compelling value proposition.
Slightly concerningly, the prep of the sustainable Pacific cod fillets has been outsourced to Sysco foods, but the classic fish taco still flawlessly balances hot, crisp batter against the mouth-filling crunch and freshness of hand-shredded cabbage. The drizzle of cool dressing is flecked with just the right amount of tarragon. Where the kitchen really shines is with the daily specials—recently featuring a darkly smoky and sophisticated duck mole taco, while a crisp roasted broccoli and kale taco had a lovely tannic bite.
The roasted corn on the cob may be the best you’ll find in this city, sublimely charred and dripping with lime butter and cilantro aioli; while tater tots doused with house-made cheese sauce and braised pork sounds like a teenage dream, the dish maintains grown-up restraint and shareability. The lo-fi dessert of fried churros and commercial ice cream, however, is best left to the kids.
The room warmly glows with salvaged-wood walls and incandescent lighting, a nod to the classic Canadian surf shack. Cantina Pana recalls a time before Vancouver real estate prices became mercenary and Dunbar was the laid-back domain of young families and hippie students from nearby UBC. Friendly table service eliminates the usual ordering and seating anarchy of casual taco joints, and a much-needed liquor licence is on the way.