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Tacos and beer in the Dragan’s Den: A perfect pairing

By Michael Lowe

As life slowly gets back to some level of pre-Covid normality, there are plenty of new food and drink options to explore. I dropped in to Dragan Brewing and Wine Company last week to try their new in-house food partner’s menu.

Tacos and beer are a natural combination, so when Dragan announced it was working with a new company called La Paisana, I couldn’t wait to try the food. La Paisana is a Latin grocery store that opened during the pandemic in May 2021.

The store is operated by the duo of Melissa Ferriño and Pranay Mudgal. Ferriño is from Monterrey, Mexico, while Mudgal hails from Mumbai, India. Mudgal’s passion for food led him down a culinary path and he handles the food service at the brewery. He told me that the menu items featured are Ferriño’s family recipes, learned during his six-year courtship with her.

Niagara food

The menu features a few snacks ($6-10) for sharing, five taco selections ($5.50 each), and churros ($6) topped with your choice of sauce. On Sunday, there are two additional dishes, Chilaquiles and Enchiladas Verdes ($14.99). We started with Totopos (chips) with Frijol con Chorizo (photo above). The blend of savoury, homemade chorizo and creamy refried beans is the perfect snack to pair with Dragan’s citrus-driven Garnet Pale Ale.

Next came the Chicken Tinga Tostada (photo above), a crisp, yellow corn tortilla topped with shredded chicken, which is mixed with panela cheese, avocado slices, and crema. The rich deep red colour of the sauce mixed with the chicken is derived from guajillo chilies, which are the dried form of the mirasol chili. There’s just a hint of heat that is easily balanced by the avocado and crema.

Tacos are up next and they are delicious. Our choices include two of the five on the menu. Carnitas (left in photo above) is a corn tortilla with pork cooked in its own fat, topped with red onion, and served with a lime wedge. Quesa Birria (right in photo above) is a variation of the classic birria, slow-cooked beef, mixed with Oaxaca cheese. Worth noting are the homemade zesty salsa verde and the smoky, slightly hot red salsa served alongside.

Speaking of zesty salsa verde, another must-try dish is the Enchiladas Verde (photo above). Flour tortillas are filled with tender chicken and topped with plenty of that beautiful salsa, cheese, onion, crema, and cilantro. This is one of the dishes available on the Sunday menu and I highly recommend it. Throughout our meal I stuck with Dragan’s Garnet pale ale, which both contrasts the savoury elements, and complements the citrus-like components of the dishes.

Dragan CEO Michael Nazareth is always experimenting with new ideas. He offered us a sample of a Garnet-based, mango cocktail (photo above), which should be a real crowd-pleaser. The salty-sweet and tangy rimmer on the glass is a lovely match with the citrus and mango flavours.

La Paisana’s menu is available Wednesday through Friday 4-8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 1-6 pm. For home cooks looking for hard-to-find ingredients for their Latin dishes, be sure to visit La Paisana Latin Grocery (contact info below). I plan on another trip to Dragan for a beer and a couple of tacos very soon. Hope to see you there. Cheers.

La Paisana Latin Grocery

Unit 9-2895 St. Paul Ave.,
Niagara Falls, ON

Dragan Brewing and Wine Company

100 Grantham Ave. Unit 1,
St. Catharines, ON.