Gina'a Mexican Cafe

47 Skinner St. Nanaimo, BC, (250) 753-5411

Gina's is my favourite Mexican restaurant on Vancouver Island.

While Nanaimo's restaurant scene is starting to pick up, Gina's has always been a diamond in a dinning abyss. If you're driving up island, or staying in Nanaimo, this is the place to stop for some stick to your ribs food.

If you're not from Nanaimo, you'll have a helluva time finding it. You can see the pink building, in the middle of downtown, perched on a high cliff, but it takes awhile to figure how to get the car up the hill.You'll know it when you find, it's pretty distinctive both inside and out.

The approach is definitely pan-Mexican, everything you would want, from every part of Mexico is represented on the menu. For those of you can't decide they also have an extensive combo list.

When you sit down at Gina's you get a bowl of chips and salsa, nothing spectacular there, but the chips are good quality and the fresh pico de gallo (tomato salsa) is delicious. Don't eat too many chips, because without fail you'll be leaving Gina's really, really full.

Patty and I love the ceviche ($7.95). Some of the best I've had in Canada. They use chunks of halibut in a very limey, tomato, pepper, onion and olive marinade. Served on lettuce, with chips; it's good light starter for two to what might be a heavy meal.

That said, the main courses are big, cheap and filling. On this day I had the chicken enchiladas ($9.95). A huge, steaming hot plate of corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, with a spicy tomato enchilada sauce topped with cheese and served with corn, rice and beans. Enough for two people, easily, I didn't finish it - I never do.

Patty ordered the fish taco ($12.50). Not the Baja variety, the halibut was not deep fried, but was sautéed and tender served with a creamy, chipotle sauce, in flour tortillas - again with corn, rice and beans. Wow, these are good. Once again, a very large portion, Patty didn't make through all the accoutrement.

It'd be nice if Gina's had an option on the menu for just the main item, or a platter with rice, corn and beans. Patty and I have come to the conclusion, that we can't eat two platters, especially if we want a starter. Next time we will order a main course and split it; but, we'd prefer to order full platter, plus another item without the beans and stuff.

They have no wine list to speak of (other than red and white house), but who cares, you don't drink wine with Mexican food. They have several Mexican and domestic beers and some mighty fine margaritas (served with salt, of course). Disappointingly, the menu doesn't have any premium sipping tequilas.

Desserts are limited and they don't have any deed fried ice cream (like I think all Mexican, particularly Tex Mex restaurants should have), however I can't imagine many people have room for dessert. 

You never need to stop for fast food in Nanaimo again, go to Gina's and have quality food for the about the same price.

  Reviewed: January 20, 2006