5 October 2023
To hear that a new Mexican offering was making its way to Bowden was exciting enough, but to find out this intimate little spot would be serving up something TOTALLY different to the Mexican fare we’ve gotten used to in SA, safe to say we were beyond excited to dig in.
Chef and owner Jon is an advocate for all cultural cuisine. He loves taking a deep dive into what creates a culture and, of course, food is almost always central to this. He’s explored the food of the world (even becoming a ‘dumpling dealer’ during the pandemic) but a trip through Mexico truly ignited this passion and led him to explore the diverse range of Mexican cuisine.
“It’s not all tacos… tacos are great but if you’ve been to Mexico you know that tortas are just as popular.”
Tortas are a simple sandwich packed with LOTS of flavour and though he ate many throughout his time in Mexico he still called on experts to ensure authenticity. Jon worked in the kitchen alongside Greggory Hill at popular eastern suburbs restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic and also is in regular contact with famed Mexican chef, Pati Jinich. Both have had a huge influence on the menu that’s come to be at Juan’s Torta Cantina.
So, why Bowden? Well, Jon has actually been part of Bowden for nearly a decade. He lived on Seventh Street and says he always loved how much of a rich community was growing here. Though he lives outside of Bowden now, Jon couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to set up his first brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“I used to frequent Hawker Street Cafe, so I was fortunate to know Michael and Hilda and be aware they wanted a change of pace… obviously I’d always wanted my own place, so I jumped at the opportunity to have something in Bowden.”
As for the menu, as promised, it’s simply delicious. The tortas, served with corn chips have an array of authentic fillings with the hero (and our personal favourite) being the Torta de Tinga de Pollo – grilled chicken in spicy chipotle tomato sauce, frijoles (refried beans), tomato, lettuce, house pickled onion, feta and garlic aioli. Delicious.
For those who have dietary requirements, you can also switch any torta to a rice bowl or a salad. There’s a vegan option too!
Jon is enthusiastic about using the best of local produce. He knows all his suppliers and the intimate details of their craft; like the ham sourced from Nino’s Meat and Smallgoods in Campbelltown, which is a third-generation family business and only uses female pigs.
The bar is open with beers, wines and a small selection of cocktails to choose from, too. While the Tecate Mexican beers are great, an authentic margarita always goes down a treat.
It’s a cafe in style, but not like we know typically in Australia. He doesn’t have a coffee machine (there’s Seven Grounds just down the road for that). The menu is small and focused on quality. As for the late-night openings (Thursday-Saturday), there are extra snacks and nibbles to trial, you’ll have to swing by to find out what’s on the menu.
Jon and his friendly staff create such a great ambience at this previously much-loved Bowden site. They welcome everyone with a smile and are certainly building a cult following already. We think this place will easily become your lunchtime regular.
Juan’s Torta Cantina
22 Hawker Street, Bowden
Monday 10am- 3pm
Tuesday 10am- 3pm
Wednesday 10am- 3pm
Thursday 10am- 10pm
Friday 10am- Late
Saturday 2pm- Late