This landmark for authentic Mexican cuisine occupies the warm wooden upper floor of an old Victorian building overlooking the vibrant Green Point strip. You might have to wait at the bar for a table over a shot of aged 100% agave tequila.
Named after the mule, the logo of El Burro is ubiquitous – down to the cute big-eared cut-out mule with your name reserving your table. (Nice touch.) Signature starters entice with smoked jalapenos stuffed with creamed feta and a trio of ceviche (linefish, octopus or salmon) marinated in a piquant lime, chilli, ginger and coriander juice.
Some like it hot – and a variety of homemade chilli sauces at the table range from cholita (mild) to el nino and cabron (hot). The most authentic dishes are layered with the same earthy, roasted and smoky flavours offset by zesty, refreshing citrus dressings and subtle chili, coriander, ginger and garlic seasoning.
Creative salads come in unusual combinations (say roasted aubergine, cauliflower, tomato, goat’s cheese and walnut). Vegetarians are spoiled for choice with aubergine and butternut quesadillas, spinach and feta tortillas, or black bean, leek and chard tacos. The best way to make your way around the menu is to decide whether you want your tortilla to come to the table already assembled – or whether you want to stuff your own tortilla from the little pots of zingy salsa, red onion, chilli, guacamole, refried beans and sour cream brought to table. Next, decide on your main filling – chicken, fish, meat or vegetables. Portions are large and easily shared among two or more.
The hero mains are soft corn and wheat tortilla wraps served with free-range goat, pulled pork (not free-range) or beef brisket – or chicken mole poblano made with 32 herbs and spices, almonds, walnuts and couverture chocolate. Make sure you leave space for churros (warm donuts) dipped in a delicious chocolate sauce. A dinner at El Burro will take you all the way to Mexico and back at a fraction of the fare.
On offer are twenty kinds of tequila and mescal, a margarita menu (try the new rhubarb, mango and lime), a good selection of craft beer and cider, and a short list of wines by the glass and bottle. What more could a hombre ask for? If you’re driving, try the organic hot chocolate with spicy cinnamon and almonds, or a refreshing Mexican cold drink of horchata (rice, cinnamon, almonds, lime and sugar).
As quick on the draw as a Mexican gunfight, with attentive, friendly service from cowgirls attired in bright embroidered Mexican tunics. Mavericks who don’t know the difference between an enchilada, quesadilla, taco and tortilla should simply ask.
Loud and vibrant, buzzing with the after-work conversation of the younger, twenty- and thirty-something crowd and catchy Latino music. Mexican religious icons, gilded mirrors with angel wings and spiky cacti in rows of terracotta pots set the scene.
Make sure you book well ahead. It’s always packed to the rafters. If you want a quieter table, have a seat on the balcony or at the back of the two-tier restaurant.
Touting itself as genuine Mexican, the food definitely delivers in authenticity and flavour. Starters of butternut quesadillas have cheesy, creamy fillings with a touch of chilli, a pleasing counterpoint to the accompanying avo-yoghurt dip and sprigs of fresh coriander but, at R50 for two little pockets, work out to be rather pricey beginnings. El Burro’s justifiably popular ceviches come in three versions – line fish (R68), octopus (R89) and farmed Franschhoek salmon trout (R85) – and all are excellent. Delicious chilli popper starters (chilli rellenos) are smoked, not deep-fried, which offsets their cheesy interior beautifully. The three (R50 for the portion) were merely thumb-sized, however, leaving a bit of bitter taste. (Especially since two years ago the same portion was selling for R33, equating to a 51% increase in price.)
The care taken to prepare the variety of main meals is impressive, with options of fresh line fish as well as notable fillings of aged sirloin, Frankie Fenner chorizo, slow-cooked pork shoulder and even free-range goat for the variations on corn and wheat tortillas, plus the usual suspects – through they’re unusually tasty, zingy and fresh – of salsa and guacamole. Most of the dishes are slow-cooked and finished off by baking or frying and served with crunchy side salads, dips and salsas. The pork carnitas (R98) – three corn tortillas topped with spicy tomato sauce, twice-roasted pulled pork and three different salsas – are a tasty, textural delight. Also tempting is the chicken mole (R103), featuring a complex sauce of 32 herbs and spices, almonds and a hint of chocolate.
Three dessert options include dark chocolate fondant, las paletas (Mexican ice pops) and churros with very sugary crusts and a rich, dark chocolate dipping sauce.
*El Burro runs a lunchtime special from 12pm-4pm Monday to Friday with options like salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, and build-your-own tacos for up to 35% off.
An array of 20 tequila varieties and almost as many inventive tequila cocktails – try the wild berry and basil margarita – give options beyond the usual frozen jugs, and there are plenty craft beers and a few wines from which to choose. Order the Mexican-inspired hot chocolate for a superbly spicy treat flavoured with cinnamon and almonds, or you could try the horchata, a creamy cold drink made with rice, cinnamon, almonds, lime and sugar.
El Burro’s lively atmosphere and quirky décor are definite drawcards. One red wall is adorned with elaborate gilt mirrors with angel wings and curved embellishments; opposite, a wall of wooden shelves supports rows of terra cotta pots and spiky cacti.
However, if you’re unlucky enough to be seated along the built-in booth, you’ll be closer to your neighbours on either side – an elbow-knocking 30cms away – than your dinner companion across the table. Communal eating is all fine and well, but you don’t want to have to smell your neighbours – though we didn’t mind the pleasing aromas of their food.
They’re really quick on the uptake with email reservations and confirming them on the day via telephone. Waitresses, charmingly dressed in Mexican-style garb, are professional and efficient. Little buckets on each table contain plenty of cutlery and serviettes, so you won’t be found wanting once you tuck in.
Exciting and beautifully prepared food, warm ambience and great service have kept the El Burro reservations book full every night. While it does feel like you’re paying for the cool factor, there are still so many reasons to keep going back.
*This review was updated on 23 June 2014 to add this information about El Burro's lunch special.
The restaurant interiors are off the charts cool, flavours are bold and the staff know their stuff. They pride themselves on authentic Mexican: mole, ceviche, tacos, churros and a wide selection of tequilas and cocktails. Booking is essential as it’s always pumping. The specials are a winner, or go for braised beef short rib tacos; pulled pork with sour cream and creamy guacamole; crayfish tacos; taquitos; chiles relleños (unbattered, smoked-cheese chilli poppers) and salmon ceviche.
You’ll find a rare array of authentic Mexican fare on this adventurous menu inspired by fresh ingredients, traditional dishes, home-style slow cooking and robust flavour combinations. The tastes and textures are light and delicate, with subtle use of exotic chilli, paprika, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and coriander. Build your own homemade tacos and tortillas (filled with pulled pork, prawns, artisan chorizo, beef short rib or baby goat) served with guacamole, chilli, sour cream and salsa. Braised in 32 spices, chicken mole poblano, their signature dish, tempts in a chilli and dark chocolate couverture sauce.
Quaff an artisan beer or try one of forty margaritas, Mexican cocktails and tequilas on a special tasting menu. A small wine selection.
Attired in funky Mexican outfits, the friendly waiters are quick on the draw. Olé!
Lively and loud in a cantina which recreates the magic of Mexico from the candle sticks, cacti and Catholic icons to the quirky mirrors, skeletons and bright pink walls.
Book a table on the balcony on a sultry summer’s night. (GH, October 2012)
I visited this restaurant on saturday afternoon. We were a party of 9 and it was a tight squeeze on the balcony. Because the soccer was on at the stadium, there was a lovely vibe in the road. If you can, order the margaritas in all the flavours. They are divine and because i was driving, i only had one and got my friends to order all the others which i could not resist tasting. I enjoyed the tamarind margarita! The rellenos is definately a different take on the chilli poppers. I am so used to the deep fried version that i did not like the smokiness of these jalapenos. All my friends thought it was great though. The food is different and really good. We ordered a variety so we could all taste almost everything on the menu.
El burro is simply fantastic. Week after week the food is consistently excellent. The service is fast and friendly. The owners and manager are always so welcoming. We are lucky to have such an awesome restaurant in Cape Town!
Wondering where to go for lunch, this weekend past, I suggested El Burro in Green Point, as I had a great experience the last time I was there..As the waitress enquired about our drinks order, my companion suggested margaritas, which made perfect sense, seeing this is a Mexican restaurant. We asked her if they made the margaritas frozen & in jugs, to which she responded that they most certainly do. With the starters and a jug ordered, we settled in. The starters & mains were great, and we proceeded to order another jug. When the bill came, I saw to my amazement, (and horror), that they charged us R420 for 2 jugs of frozen margaritas. (Keep in mind that these jugs were NOT 5 litres each, and the drinks were NOT made with Don Julio or Patron tequila.. In fact, these drinks were pretty weak, considering most of the volume consists of crushed ice!) When I voiced my utter dismay about the amount charged for the ridiculously little amount of alcohol received, I was promptly informed by the manageress on duty, that the correct measurements were followed and that we in fact consumed 33 shots of tequila. And that they encourage their waitresses to only inform their guests about the price of the jugs after the first one! (which never happened by the way). Now, either me and my companion are raging alcoholics, or there are some serious discrepancies here. There are 30 shots in a 750ml bottle.. this means we allegedly polished a whole bottle of tequila in 2 hours! If this was the case, we probably would have needed 'el wheelburro' to leave the establishment. Gritting my teeth, I paid, and with dark mutterings, we left. So, in conclusion, rather order 4 bottles of wine. You will know exactly where your money went, and at least you'll have the hangover to prove it. The experience left a sour taste in my mouth...pun definitely intended!
Great night at a great restaurant. Ambience is always perfect with friendly and knowledgeable service. Food delicious as always, ceviche is my favourite and the best Margaritas in town! Thanks El Burro team!
Being from California I know Mexican and El Burro is certainly not authentic but is a solid South African attempt. The food is tasty, the drinks great and the crowd enjoyable. Totally worth your time and probably the best Mexican food around... we are in Africa.
El Burro is certainly a different Mexican, more like Mexican Fusion. Food is definitely not authentic Mexican but what I like is that it seems healthier, nice trendy side salads. If hot is what you are looking for, ask for loads of extra chilli, the average dish I taste would compare to lemon and herb "hotness". Nice atmosphere but our waitress was aloof and didn't know the menu very well but I think that's very personal and I am sure not all the staff are like that.
El Burro reminded me of Kauai on steroids. Simple street food with tons of embellishment . The sauce on my Chicken Verde had so much coriander, it masked the flavour of everything else on the plate, spoiling the dish. The menu is far too simple for the prices they are charging. The food is practically assembled on the plate. At least I also now how to prepare Mexican fare. Just take a store bought wrap...
Did they change the chef? I used to love the chocolate fondant, but today (4 Jan 2013) it was burned. I sent it back and it returned worse – not gooey and rich inside as it should be, but thin and watered down. To make matters worse, the ice cream on the side was frozen with ice particles! Not worth the R58 I spent on it ,(
Meh... Ok, I am an American and kind of want authentic in some place that claims they are serving Mexican food. This is a nice place for a tequila or a drink, but I was not bowled over by the authenticity of the food. They should do better than store-bought tortilla chips, and I could go in there and show them how to make proper salsa. It is easy, you don't have to buy that Nando's sauce or Bushman's Pride or whatever you put in front of us - come on! And well, it gets worse from there. The food tasted good, maybe it was tailored more towards a South African palette. Maybe that's ok, and I'm just being rigid.
I must concede that it was the best Mexican food our party had ever eaten - but the noise level was completely unacceptable. It made for a bad experience because we couldn't have a conversation because of the volume. We gave up and left early - the food wasn't enough to endure the noise. Pity.
My first visit today at lunch with high expectations - have heard only good things. Indeed, food was good. But ordered a 'Mockjito' which turned up as a Mojito - easily to hear incorrectly. But they took it away, replaced it with the 'Mock' version and then, at the end of the meal, charged me for it on the bill. I complained, not on the basis that the order was misheard, but that they should have told me that they would charge me for it and ask if I or my companion wanted it anyway as we would be charged for it. I'm writing this review as I will now not return - any restaurant that can't swallow R35 to keep a customer happy (particularly when it was an error not made by the customer in the first place!) doesn't deserve repeat business...
Great evening at El Burro spent with friends. The ambience/decor and setting were perfect, sitting on a balcony on a warm evening sipping on the most amazing margaritas. Think this is going to be my new local! Thanks Team El Burro!
My partner is somewhat tricky when it comes to food, to say the least. He's vegetarian, has a gluten intolerance and is allergic to a food thickener called Xanthan Gum (sometimes called 'stabiliser', sometimes called 'E415', sometimes called 'thickener', sometimes called 'modified starch'), so eating out is never a simple undertaking. The chef at El Burro, Paul, was so so helpful. He was very patient when we explained the problem, he personally checked every ingredient and even went so far as to personally prepare my partners meal entirely from scratch. I am very very impressed with the amount of concern he placed on making sure that every aspect of the meal was satisfactory. We will definitely be going back!
Dear Brendon Thank you for your feedback. To answer your concerns, I will put it in a list. 1. Margaritas. The frozen jugs contain 13 shots of Olmeca Blanco tequila. That is nearly half a bottle. We use only freshly hand squeezed lime juice and organic Agave Syrup instead of triple sec. Both methods are used in Mexico. The current price of limes is R80p/kg. Pick ‘n Pay is selling limes at R100p/kg. When it comes to frozen margaritas, you have to use a lot of ice in order to achieve the fluffy frozen texture and look that people prefer. The problem then lies in that the mix is then diluted somewhat. There is a fine line when trying to achieve the frozen texture, if you add too much lime/tequila/liquid you end up with a liquidy slush. When you look at costs, with 13 shots of tequila, the fresh limes, imported agave syrup and ice, we are not actually making the standard mark up on the Jug at R180. According to industry standard they should be R220. As to the accusation that we are watering them down, that is unfounded. We are completely owner run, with a part time manager who does 2 shifts a week for us to give us a break. I would never allow watering down to occur. We put our life savings into El Burro and to think I would risk all of it by cheating customers would be ridiculous. If I do find that was the case on the evening of your visit, then disciplinery action will be taken. What I suspect happened is that in this heat, the barmen are struggling to achieve the correct consistency and might be adding too much ice. If that is the case, then I will not serve frozen jugs while it is so hot. Had you spoken to me on the night, I would have rectified it there and then. We are very approachable to customer complaints, and would prefer people to tell us there and then so we can make sure you are happy. 2. Food - I am very pleased to hear your friends enjoyed their mains. We use the highest grade of squid available and at R85 a kilo it is not as cheap as one would think. Possibly the kitchen messed up your portion and I apologise that it was too small. Again, if you had alerted me to that fact, I could have rectified it. I would have given you a whole other portion for free. Regarding the ceviche. We use only the freshest line fish that is caught in the morning. We have to wait until 10am to see what is available. We then finely dice the fish, which is standard practice in Mexico, and cure it with fresh lime juice, adding chilli, corriander etc for flavour. We cure our fish to order, which can only be done with sushi grade fish, and not 2 hours before. This is to avoid drying out the fish, as is often the case I had in Mexico. We have hundreds of people who love our Ceviche and it was voted in the top ten dishes of 2011 by Eat Out readers. If it was not to your liking, why did you not tell us? Again, I would gladly, gladly have substituted it for something else. At El Burro we pride ourselves on trying our absolute hardest to make sure our customers are happy. We do not pretend to be the best of anything, we simply try to achieve the best we can. A lot of time and money has been invested by us as owners to try and create the best experience we can for our customers. That is why we urge people to tell us when they are not happy with anything. Unfortunately you did not allow me that privilege and now you would probably not come back. I do urge you to come back and give us a second chance. I am sure we can rectify your concerns, but of course we’d have to know about them first. Every restaurant has owners that care. Granted, some more than others. My Fiance and I’s life’s savings are in El Burro and our partners and us care very deeply about our business. Once again, thank you for your feedback. Regards Nic (owner)
We dined at El Burro as a party of 7 on Saturday night. Generally speaking, the meal was very good on most counts. My 6 friends all either ordered the Pork Carnitas or the Beef with soft flour wraps off the main coarse menu and they were all absolutely delighted with their meals. I on the other hand, thought I'd be clever and ordered 2 starters as a main, and was actually bitterly disappointed. I ordered the Ceviche and Calamares. The Ceviche had nothing Mexican going for it and to be honest, a smoked fish paté bought from Pick n Pay would've been equally satisfying and a blind man would have had a tough time differentiating between the Ceviche and PnP's smoked fish paté. The Calamares was really good, but let’s face it, paying R42.00 for 5 baby calamari tubes is excessive! It would perhaps suffice as a starter to my 4-year old son, who, regrettably is not big on Calamari at this stage of his young life. Calamari is not an expensive seafood to procure and I felt cheated when I finished both my starters, the PnP fish paté and my 5 baby tubes of calamari whilst my 6 friends were still in the process of building their respective wraps, (their first wraps of a potential 3-4 considering the volume of their dishes) - and to put things into perspective, I'm a slow eater! So I was in for a total of R99.00 for my "main" compared to my friends who paid R78 for their dishes. I'm actually fuming as I type! The big collective let-down was the jug of frozen Margaritas! Mr. El Burro Barman, may I ask whether your Manager knows that you are seriously screwing over your clientele or is he/she in on it with you? Come-on guys, I'm 40 years old, have been to Mexico and have eaten in every Mexican restaurant the Western Cape has to offer and as a result, have indulged in my fair share of Margaritas! So, we had 4 jugs between the 7 of us, and not one of us at any stage felt that we had indulged in anything alcoholic. We actually were responsible enough to arrange Good-Fellows to drive us all home, but when we all walked out of the restaurant more sober than when we emerged from our respective mothers' wombs, we wondered why? We have no problem paying R150 for a jug of Margarita but lets at least feel the magical caress which only tequila can embrace one with when we do so! Please Manager/Owner and whoever else is responsible for ensuring your clientele enjoy their restaurant experience, look into this as every one of us felt entirely cheated and done-over with regards to the Virgin Margarita’s. I can get over my bad choices regarding my starters, but we all feel your establishment, which lets face it, it's doing well and has some good words spoken about it in out-going circles, is seriously missing a trick here, and if you're not, you should be embarrassed about your feeble attempt at making Mexico's national cocktail, especially considering you're a Mexican restaurant. I’d welcome any reply to my mail to perhaps add some clarity. Kind regards, Brendon
I fell in love with Mexican food while living in the US and thought I will never get anything close it until I ate at El Burro. It is as authentic as you can get in Cape Town, from the decor to the food. The service was amazing, from being greeted by name when I first walked to the door (and them remembering it throughout my time there). My only disappointment was their home made flour tortillas, they tasted a bit raw (you can still taste the raw flour).
If you're looking for deep fried, oily Tex-mex fare then don't visit El Burro. The food is fresh, not oily at all and not killed by an inordinate amount of chilli. Large, well priced wine list (including decent tequila) and good service. Booking essential as they are full regularly.
Whenever the Mexican craving starts up again, this is definitely the place that will be on my mind. The jalapenos are the best I have had so far and I have been around the block. Fresh ingredients and flavourful fillings with my make-it-yourself beef short rib taco. Wish I could rewind my day just to relive this meal.