You’re strolling downtown after midnight on a Friday after hitting the bars — what sounds like the most satisfying morsel you can grab to fix your case of the munchies?
Owner Jose Cortez of Taqueria El Burrito, which opened in November in the old Great Wall of China II location across from de Vere’s, was very bright in deciding to open a downtown spot that serves tasty, inexpensive Mexican food and is — punchline — open until 3 a.m. on weekend nights.
El Burrito is more than just late-night craving satisfaction, though. Walking through the door, I noticed nothing short of the typical taqueria décor — Spanish-style tile floors, Corona and Bud Light neon signs in the windows, traditional brightly-colored woven fabric laid into the table tops, a refrigerator of Mexican popsicles by the door and Tapatío and habanero hot sauce bottles on every table. Aurally speaking, the Mariachi music playing in the background completes the taqueria experience. Another notable quality of El Burrito is its cleanliness — the continuously wiped-down surfaces and airy feel to the space make me want to dine there often.
Fitting for a college town full of students on time crunches with very little money, the order-at-the-counter setup of El Burrito contributes to the casual atmosphere. Fortunately, even though I was standing behind at least ten other people, the line moved quickly.
Despite its name — which actually means little donkey in Spanish — the eatery features an extensive and thorough menu that offers so much more than the standard burrito. A bit overwhelming, the menu contains everything from tacos and enchiladas to tortas and soups, and there are 23 different combo plates from which to select.
The menu also provides an array of meat choices. You can choose the typical chicken, steak or pork to go into your burritos and tamales, but you can also spring for more exotic options, including lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (beef head), tripa (beef tripe) and buche (pork stomach). There is also an entire section of the menu dedicated to seafood.
In order to avoid waving people by and saying, “Go ahead, I’m not ready yet” for too long, like I did, I would recommend looking at the menu online beforehand or taking a peek at the to-go menus they have outside.
After my friends and I finished a basket of complimentary chips to hold us over, our meals arrived promptly — and the fact that servers brought our food to us and we didn’t have to pick it up at the counter was a huge plus. The taco salad with chicken ($6.25), steak enchilada and chicken tamal combo plate ($9.45) and chicken and pork tamales plate ($9.80) are all delicious but taste similar to others I’ve had at Davis taquerias. The combo plates and specialty plates come with rice, refried beans (with a kick), sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes, creating a decent-size portion for the price.
The focus here should be two items not widely seen in Davis: the carne asada fries ($7.25) and the chile relleno burrito ($6.95). The carne asada fries are just what they sound like — crinkle-cut French fries piled high with carne asada, refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and cheese. While it’s probably not the healthiest choice for dinner, it makes one hell of a late-night snack. It also tastes even better washed down with a cup of fresh horchata ($2.00), which is a traditional Mexican drink made with rice and cinnamon.
The chile relleno burrito rises above as the standout dish. It presents the fixins for a chile relleno — chiles, cheese and salsa — wrapped up in a massive tortilla with rice, beans, avocado and sour cream. All burritos can be made “wet,” or slathered in red or green (or both, which they call “Christmas”) enchilada sauce, for an extra $1.90. The added sauce ties the flavors in beautifully and the dish perfectly represents what’s so hearty and comforting about Mexican cuisine. Note: knife and fork definitely required.
223 F Street, in E Street Plaza
Hours: Monday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. – 3 a.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. – 3 a.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Food and ambiance quality
**** I’m dining here every day
*** Almost like eating at home
** Better than my roommate’s cooking
* Only if I’m starving
$$$$ chancellor $20+
$$$ professor $15-20
$$ graduate student/alum $10-15
$ undergraduate $5-10