One of the best Mexican restaurants in Ontario – We talked to the chef

Published January 31, 2024 at 3:41 pm

Good food is a cornerstone of Mexican culture, says Eduardo Juarez, chef and managing partner at Por Vida in Oakville.

Located at 2330 Lakeshore Rd W. in the waterfront neighbourhood of Bronte, the restaurant has quickly become one of the most popular Mexican spots in the GTA for their selection of delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine in a vibrant, eye-catching interior.

The menu features zesty tacos made with fillings like savoury grilled steak, slow-roasted pork, and pollo asado chicken, shareable plates including chilaquiles, grilled calamari, and duck carnitas wings, salsa and guacamole dips, and a bar that serves a variety of cocktails, tequilas, margaritas and more.

Por Vida is partly managed by Chef Eduardo Juarez, who grew up with a passion for delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine. Many years later, his expertise and his use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients have made the restaurant a hotspot for foodies in Oakville and its surrounding cities.

In an exclusive interview, Chef Juarez spoke about his upbringing, his career as a chef, and what’s next for him:

What inspired you to get into the hospitality industry?

Juarez: A lot of the inspiration came from growing up around food. My mother was always cooking, my dad loves to cook. Food is very much a part of Mexican culture – any big event, anything important is based around food, and you always invite your friends and family over for food. That’s kind of where it started for me.

What’s your earliest memory in the kitchen?

Juarez: Going into the kitchen when my mom was making refried beans. She was frying onions and bacon fat, and that’s a smell that never leaves your mind, it kind of sticks with you forever.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

Juarez: I’d say when I was 19 years old. I always grew up working in restaurants, I was always in the restaurant scene. I decided to go away to school for one year for something that wasn’t culinary, and right away I knew that I needed to get back into culinary work. This is what I love doing.

What does it take to be a professional chef?

Juarez: You get into it because you love cooking, but the title of Chef takes a lot more than that. You have to be able to manage the restaurant, manage your team and inspire them. It’s not just coming into work and cooking. You have to teach people and inspire them to want to learn and take it on themselves. There’s a lot more responsibility with being a chef.

What’s the style of cuisine offered at Por Vida?

Juarez: The cuisine we make is rooted in tradition, but I’d say it’s more original – using recipes and flavours that of course you would see in Mexico, but we take it and make it our own.

What’s your favourite dish here?

Juarez: Right now it’s the grilled carrots with white mole (miso-glazed heirloom carrots grilled over coals and served with white mole sauce and peanut salsa macha). I’d say any of our vegetarian dishes are among our strongest dishes, for sure.

What’s your favourite food in general?

Juarez: Pozole (traditional Mexican soup or stew) like my mother used to make when I was growing up – nice, warm broth for the winter season. And I’m still trying to make mine better than hers.

Do you think you’ll ever get there?

Juarez: One day I’ll get there!

When you’re cooking here, do you have your parents’ cooking in mind?

Juarez: For sure. A lot of what I do here comes from my memories in their kitchen, growing up with the food that they made. Everything kind of sprouted from that.

What do you hope customers take away from their experience at Por Vida?

Juarez: A full belly and a happy heart. I hope that we’ve changed their day for the better, that they had a meal they really enjoyed, and that they’ll come back. That’s all you can ask for.

What’s next for you and Por Vida?

Juarez: Hopefully we can open another location – we’ll see what comes next. But we’d like to continue to grow our customer base and show people what we can do here with the food we provide.

Aside from their regular menu offerings, Por Vida continues to offer special deals and promos from time to time – they recently wrapped up a big promo in December which made their famous all-you-can-eat tacos available every single weekday during lunch.

To see their full menu or stay updated on all restaurant news and promo deals, visit Por Vida’s website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Por Vida is part of Catch Hospitality Group, a major full-service restaurant and catering company that’s primarily located in Oakville and currently expanding into other parts of the GTA.