When Carlos Bosque, owner and operator of Sargent Taco Shop, arrived in Winnipeg 13 years ago, he visited every place that served Mexican cuisine in search of the flavours he grew up with.
“I checked every single Mexican restaurant in the city,” Bosque says. When he couldn’t find the quality and authenticity he was looking for, Bosque decided he would open his own restaurant.
“My family has a background in the restaurant business, and I know the flavours. I know how to do a really delicious meal,” Bosque says.
“Everything that I have here you can find the recipe for. Everything. But we have a thing called sazón. Sazón means the touch to make it delicious … that’s a gift I got from my mom.”
When Carlos Bosque, owner and operator of Sargent Taco Shop. Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black
Even though Bosque has sazón, he doesn’t call himself a chef. Instead, he refers to himself as an “antojitos expert.” Antojitos - or “little cravings” - are traditional Mexican street foods like tacos, sopes and chimichangas, all of which you can find at Bosque’s 698 Sargent Ave. shop.
For those visiting for the first time, Bosque recommends ordering the quintessential Mexican antojito, tacos al pastor, which he says are so popular that they’re available every hour of every day in Mexico.
“We have the skills to make the meat tender and delicious, with the flavours of the real pastor taco that is in Mexico,” Bosque says.
Sargent Taco Shop isn’t just a place for meat lovers, though. Bosque recently introduced sopes, what he calls “a more fulfilling antojito,” specifically for his vegetarian regulars.
The sopes can be topped with vegetables, mushrooms or nopales (cacti) in addition to the more traditional meat options, as can the tacos. News of the vegetarian options has spread quickly throughout the Winnipeg vegetarian community.
“It’s just amazing how word of mouth works,” Bosque says. “Now we have people that come for the first time, but they know what to ask for.”
It’s clear that Winnipeggers are receptive to Bosque’s love for sharing delicious, authentic and affordable meals.
“I drooled and drooled, they were so yummy!” Wanda Friesen, a repeat patron who first heard about Sargent Taco Shop through word of mouth, says of her first experience eating their tacos.
It’s not only the taste that keeps Wanda coming back. She says she also appreciates that the shop uses “all real ingredients” and that “(the food) is made fresh.”
As the shop grows, Bosque hopes to expand his menu to include dishes that further highlight the flavours of Mexico. One Mexican delicacy that Bosque has already tested out with visitors to his shop is huitlacoche, also known as Mexican truffle. Huitlacoche is already well-loved in Mexico and is gaining popularity in America, with chefs such as Sean Brock incorporating it into their cooking.
“It’s insanely delicious and luxurious, like black truffles,” Brock is quoted as saying in a NPR article.
“The taco you eat here is the same taco that a native (of Mexico) is going to eat over there,” Bosque says.
Sargent Taco Shop is located at 698 Sargent Ave. They are open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.