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Review: Duck tacos and Mexican boerie rolls at The Gringo Café in Maboneng

Saad Hamid and Brooke Dickens, a super-stylish couple, have created a truly hot spot in The Gringo Café. Here they pride themselves on serving great-value-for-bucks, spicy, vibey Mexican food with amusing South African twists. But they don’t stop there – each dish looks so good it’s an Instagram trophy, says Eat Out critic Marie-Lais Emond.

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Fast facts

Price: Average main course is R80
Parking: Outside Maboneng’s Craftsmen’s Ship building on Main Street
Best for: Piled on, stunningly presented, more-is-more Mexican-style food
Star rating: Food 4, service 4, ambience 3

Food

Everyone is smiling, even before the orders are taken – the drinks selected from a big chalkboard and the food off a page of drawings. The menu is not really divided into courses, so we just order from all over. With smeared faces, we eat off each other’s plates. The carne asada is like slap tjips with cheese, seriously good and tender pulled beef, and generous piles of guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Yoh! There’s more softly pulled meat like duck to be had in the tacos. You can have soft or hard shells; we have both.

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Next up is a boerie roll, the wors bursting with juice and chilli heat in its crisped roll, topped with more amazing guacamole, cream cheese and sour cream. The Mexican wings loaded onto a skewer are glazed and grilled so that the edges catch and become sticky, and come served with a side of salsa nachos and perfectly roasted corn on the cob.

Behind all the fun, there’s a from-scratch and kind-to-the-environment food ethic. Vegetarians are catered for with ease and cheese – and beans instead of meat.

End with a good coffee poured over condensed milk.

Drinks

As well as beers and ciders there are cocktails, with The Gringo Café mixologist doing all his own infusing and making of syrups and shrubs. Try the gorgeous jalapeño-and-grapefruit margarita or pineapple-and-sage tequila shot followed by dry cider. Yes, you can have wine if you like, and the virgin cocktails are divine, too.

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Service

The people – including the mixologist and the manager – are funny, caring and full of beans. At times it’s like a circus here, and yet they’re constantly making special suggestions and checking in.

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Ambience

Those big Mexican hats come in for some major wear here, especially against the pink selfie wall. Metal skulls on the tables, heart-bedecked ones on the menus, and a wall garden of succulents are pretty cool. Food mostly comes in those bright enamelled plates and bowls and the bar counter is fronted with slightly buckled yellow barriers from Kyalami. The thrown-together look belies some crafty planning to create this look of a bright shed in the Chihuahuan Desert or the Karoo.

 

And…

It’s worth mentioning Saad’s own magnificent twirled moustache, which is almost part of the décor.

Have you visited The Gringo Café in Maboneng? Tell us what you thought in a quick review to put it in line to win the Mexican category at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries later on this year. Write a review now.

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

 

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