A taste of Latin America in the heart of Surrey
By Idrian Burgos, Columnist
At first glance, the Whalley area of Surrey—specifically the area between Surrey Central and Gateway stations along King George Boulevard—may appear rundown and secluded. Shops, restaurants, and other establishments are mostly situated in semi-sordid structures located in an environment that isn’t exactly conducive to a leisurely walk, especially at night. An observer might say the place has seen better days.
While it’s true there’s a dingy aspect to the neighbourhood, it is also interesting and appealing. The beautifully shabby shops offer attractive multicultural goods, from Middle Eastern items to Polish foodstuffs and African merchandise. Moreover, various world cuisines are represented in Whalley, from Malaysian to African. One restaurant that’s worth visiting here is La Conquistadora.
The restaurant’s Latin American uniqueness is clear from the outside. Spanish-language signs complement the restaurant’s sombrero-wearing cactus mascot. Attractive images of the dishes offered inside give the customer a preview of what lies beyond the entrance. The Mexican and Salvadoran flags sometimes fly outside the restaurant.
The interior is essentially Latin America within walls. The table- and wall-coverings all contribute to the atmosphere. The chairs, tables, and the small blackboard displaying the latest offerings of the restaurant exude a distinctly Latin American style. The distinctiveness of La Conquistadora is further conveyed by a large embroidered picture of Guatemala, piñatas, and other decorations. Background music, Spanish reading materials, products for sale, and the occasional televised soccer match complete the picture.
The food focusses on Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine and—while it may be similar to what’s served in other Latin American restaurants—there’s an individuality to it. The highlight of the menu is what’s colloquially called the Burrote or “big burrito,” stuffed with salsa, cheese, rice and other ingredients, and topped with further salsa and cheese. Other dishes include the Chimichanga, which is the same size as the Burrote; Salpicon or chopped beef with two tortillas and other ingredients; and Tortas Mexicanas, or Mexican-style sandwich. If you can’t afford these or the other dishes that are in the $10-14 range, there are also dishes that are priced lower. One dish to try is Chilaquiles, or Nacho Chips à La Conquistadora, with salsa, frijoles, feta, and sour cream.
The tastiness of the dishes is complemented by the friendly service courtesy of the owner himself. A plate of tortilla chips, accompanied by a bowl of salsa, is served before your meal. Any requested changes to the dishes are done for a small fee.
In terms of atmosphere, food, and service, La Conquistadora is superb. The restaurant plays an important role both in revealing Latin American cuisine to the Lower Mainland and, along with other establishments in the area, contributing to the vitality and strength of a growing community.