Taco pop-up at The Aviary met with rave reviews

On March 6, The Aviary hosted a taco pop-up with local resident Nadine McAleese as the chef. As guests arrived, they were greeted by a boy acting as an informal doorman. It set the tone of a family-friendly night of delicious food, laughter, and socializing.

McAleese cooked two types of vegan tacos and a rice and bean bowl. Both got rave reviews from the patrons and attracted people from all over the city.

Philip Muz, The Aviary owner, takes an order during the pop-up night. | Stephen Strand

The attention shows tremendous support from the community to McAleese, who had never worked a day in the food service industry.

She discovered the pop-up nights through Facebook and decided she wanted to do one with tacos. She sent Phil Muz, owner of The Aviary, a message about her idea. “He was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it! Do you want this date or this date?’ I didn’t realize it would be that quick and easy,” McAleese explains with a chuckle.

The delicious rice and bean bowl. | Stephen Strand

McAleese learned to cook through trial and error. “I love to cook. I lived in Mexico for a few years and I really loved to eat the food that my aunt cooked. I never learned [to cook] when I was there, but once I came home, I was always trying to recreate the flavours,” she explains. “It feels like people respond to it because it’s a little bit different than most of the tacos that you would get here.”

The secret is freshness. “Simple ingredients. That’s my thing. Everything has to be fresh and made from scratch.” She even made the tortillas from scratch. “We figured I made about 250 that day.”

Tia Concha’s tacos dorados (rolled tacos) and Mexican independence tacos (tacos at bottom of photo). | Stephen Strand

Patrons Tamara Fleming and Richa Singh both enjoyed the food. “Spectacular! The smell alone is amazing! Delicious,” exclaims Fleming.

“This is my second [food event] and I look forward to more,” says Singh.

“I think that when you come, it’s more than the food. It’s the people, the environment, and supporting each other. It’s motivating to come and participate,” says Fleming. “You’re supporting people and your community at the same time. We don’t do enough of that.”

Muz explains how the pop-up nights started. “They are tons of fun, they’re different, and bring in people from the community. It’s just something a little different than what we normally do. There is so much music here, like six, seven nights a week of music. It’s really nice to have a night solely based on different kinds of food.”

The Aviary will continue to host pop-ups about once a month and those interested in doing one should contact Muz by email at philip@the-aviary.net. “I know a couple of really, really awesome chefs, and I have reached out to them. I’ve thrown it out on social media one time if anyone wants to do a food pop-up. That’s how Nadine found me.” And the requirements? “As long as you are a good cook and can serve food expeditiously.”

Featured Image: Nadine McAleese, a self-taught cook, sold her tacos at The Aviary’s pop-up night. | Stephen Strand