Lovers of Mexican food come in all shapes and sizes. On one end of the scale there is the true connoisseur: well-travelled through Central America, will insist on peppers being extra hot, and won’t be caught dead with a Corona. On the other is your average Juan: still not entirely sure where Mexico is located on a map, prefers tomato sauce on his burrito, and gets excited by beef mince and an Old El Paso taco kit from Coles.
Regardless of your status, there are certain things we all associate with fine Mexican cuisine: fresh ingredients, maybe a little booze and definitely a good time.
Enter Caracara, the Coast’s latest addition to its vibrant Mexi-scene, and brainchild of Lockwood owners, Brenden Yeo and Zac Wright.
“We want to produce good, simple Mexican food. If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you’ll know the food is easy, fresh and bright. We love that,” says Brenden. “And Mexican food is fun. Although we’ve put cutlery on the tables, we don’t expect it to be used a whole lot. It’s definitely hands-on food.”
Let’s start with the word itself—Caracara. It’s pronounced Carra, not Cara, like the female name. And in case you’re wondering, the Caracara is a much-loved bird of prey from Central America. Think of it as the Mexican-equivalent to the Kookaburra.
You’ll find Caracara along Tugun’s shopping strip, another notch in the belt of the once sleepy seaside suburb that is fast becoming a favoured Gold Coast postcode.
“We love small towns,” says Brenden. “We like places that have a local feel and sense of community, and Tugun has its own identity. Plus, it’s nice to be able to walk off the beach and dive into a fish taco.”
The food consists of big tastes and lots of colour, with just the right amount of kick. For a light start try the ceviche (citrus cured fresh fish, diced tomato, onion, coriander and corn chips). Then maybe the fish taco (fresh market fish, guacamole, charred corn salsa, slaw and chipotle mayo). And why not sample the roasted sweet potato salad (oven baked whole sweet potato, topped with fresh herb and chilli salad, corn salsa and salsa verde).
After a feed (or indeed, before), move on out back to the bar for some live music and a shot of Mexican spirit—the best way to clear a blocked sinus and kickstart a night out. Here you’ll find an impressive range of tequilas and mezcals lining the shelves, plus a stack of classic cocktails and beer too. The atmosphere is cool and dark, perfect for a post-gorge beverage with friends.
So, clean your hands and loosen that belt. The Coast’s newest cantina awaits.
What: Caracara cantina and tequila bar
Where: 455 Golden Four Drive, Tugun
When: Open 5pm ‘til late Wednesday to Saturday, midday ‘til late on Sunday
Image credit: Kaitlin Maree Photography for Urban List