Sal Y Limon Mexican Cuisine
By Jesse Donaldson

Family recipes, authentic flavours

When talking to Sal Y Limon co-owner Carolina Rivera, the word that comes up most often is “family.” And rightfully so; restaurants – and Mexican restaurants in particular – are in her blood, part of a family tradition that goes back to her formative years in Manzanillo.

“I grew up with my older sister and her husband, and they had a Mexican restaurant,” she recalls. “And I used to work with them all through high school and university. I learned all these recipes, and it was part of my growing up. And when I met [co-owner Adriana Basantes], her husband was working in a Mexican restaurant, and I found out that he had a passion for it, too. He wanted to open up his own place. And when I found that out, it just clicked.”

So, in the spring of 2012, Carolina, her husband Sebastien Jutras, alongside Adriana and her husband Jose (Pepe) Cedeno, decided to band together, using some of those same family recipes – further developed by Carolina and Pepe – to bring an authentic taste of Mexico to the Fraser/Kingsway neighbourhood. “We were talking, and it just happened,” she recalls. “It felt like the right thing to do with the right people at the right time.”

We have this sense of family. We try to pass that culture on to our employees as well. It's a place where people can grab food that's affordable, that's quick and where no one's judging you. - Carolina Rivera, co-owner
As well as being popular with Vancouverites, Sal Y Limon has also won awards for their authentic, family-style recipes, including Best Taco In Vancouver on CMT's "Taco Wars." Photo by Jesse Donaldson

Tacos, huaraches, burritos and more

Sal Y Limon's commitment to authenticity is evident from the moment you walk through the front door. Local, Mexican-inspired artwork adorns the walls. Nine salsas and sauces line a counter near the window.

And that family connection can be felt throughout the restaurant, even beyond the menu, which features a broad offering of huaraches, burritos and tortas. Pepe himself can often be found behind the counter. And most importantly to Carolina and the others, Sal Y Limon also features a kids' play area, allowing families a rare opportunity to bring their children into a restaurant environment designed with them in mind.

“There aren't that many places you can get a good meal and also bring the kids, she notes. “We have this sense of family. We try to pass that culture on to our employees as well. It's a place where people can grab food that's affordable, that's quick and where no one's judging you.”

Photo by Jesse Donaldson

Let's taco 'bout it

Even before they'd officially opened, Sal Y Limon was already a hit with Vancouverites (“we were still cleaning up after all the [renovation] work, and people were already knocking on the door”, Carolina laughs). And ever since, the restaurant's popularity has only grown. In 2015, they expanded to double their capacity, lineups regularly extend out the front door, and their food has won a number of awards, including several Golden Plates, and even Best Taco in Vancouver on CMT's Taco Wars.

Despite their popularity and awards, their commitment to both authenticity and family remains strong. Because, as Carolina explains, no one is prouder of their success than the family themselves. “Our kids are our biggest fans,” she says. “They're really proud of it. At school, they're already saying 'Do you know I own a Mexican restaurant?'”

[Header photo by Jesse Donaldson]

The restaurant's interior was designed by the owners themselves, and features a smattering of local, Mexican-inspired art.
The restaurant's interior was designed by the owners themselves, and features a smattering of local, Mexican-inspired art. Photo by Jesse Donaldson
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