By Nicole Colozza
A bright red awning, eye-catching bubble letters and the muffled sound of music accompanied by boisterous singing are what calls customers to line up out the door at the Californian-Mexican fusion taco shop, Seven Lives, located in the middle of Kensington Market.
Sean Riehl, an American-born, self-taught chef, moved to Toronto from California in 2010 and created Seven Lives three years later, originally just as a pop-up.
He opened up a permanent shop in one of Toronto’s most popular markets a year later, and his tacos have been a hit ever since.
The menu is inspired by both the California-style tacos Riehl enjoyed growing up and his trips to Tijuana for authentic Mexican tacos.
“It’s a mix of Tex-Mex,” said Seven Lives manager Omar Joel Soria. “Our tacos have fish and meat in them and he tried to mix Californian style with a Mexican style and put it all together.”
The Seven Lives menu features eight different tacos, each for only six dollars, that switch occasionally on a yearly basis.
You can enjoy your tacos with their selection of sides from classic guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips to colourful seafood ceviche.
Their signature taco is called the “Gobernador” and is packed with flavour from a steamy pile-up of smoked marlin, grilled shrimp and cheese. It’s a Seven Lives specialty and the only taco that never gets taken off the menu, according to Soria.
Another crowd favourite is the Baja fish taco that features a golden slab of fried haddock smothered in pico de gallo and cabbage.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Seven Lives has provided an enviable roasted mushroom taco option which is available at their second location in the Annex Hotel.
Part of the fun is watching your delicious taco being put together in their open-concept kitchen. Everything is made in-house, except for the tortillas as per Riehl’s wishes, and some of their fish and seafood comes straight from Kensington Market shops to “support the market businesses.”
The Seven Lives Family
Over the years, Toronto has made itself known as a diverse cultural hub with a wide range of cuisine options for all of your gastronomical needs. However, with the high number of new food spots opening every month, shops need a certain element that stands out to the hungry masses.
Soria explained how the Seven Lives team, or family as they refer to themselves on Instagram, is what sets them apart from other shops. Along with their fusion cuisine, Seven Lives’ friendly atmosphere is what keeps customers coming back for more.
“The lineup, people love it. You can see in reviews that people think our lineup is amazing. They say, ‘The people are so friendly.’ We are more open-minded so we are not just working, we are also having fun,” said Soria.
When you walk through the door, the bright colours and fast-paced music is not the only thing that gives vibrancy to the small shop. Everyone is laughing and singing behind the counter and second to the sight of one of their mouth-watering tacos, watching the Seven Lives family in action is the fastest way to bring a smile to your face.
Seven Lives is located at 69 Kensington Avenue and is open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Coming this summer, Seven Lives’ third location will be opening on 72 Kensington Avenue, just across the market.