Venues

El Burro

El Burro
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Cost
R95
Ambience
Comfy & casual
Food
Mexican
2013_eatout_top500
500

Critic's review

Graham Howe

The food
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.

The drinks
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).

The service
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.

The ambience
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.

And…
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.

(July 2014)
  • Linda Scarborough

    The food
    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.

    The drinks
    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.

    The ambience
    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.

    The service
    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.

    The verdict
    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.

    (June 2014)
  • 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.
  • Food
    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.

    Wine
    Quaff an artisan beer or try one of forty margaritas, Mexican cocktails and tequilas on a special tasting menu. A small wine selection.

    Service
    Attired in funky Mexican outfits, the friendly waiters are quick on the draw. Olé!

    Ambience
    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.

    And...
    Book a table on the balcony on a sultry summer’s night. (GH, October 2012)

User reviews

  • Reply
    Last night we celebrated my sons 15 birthday with friends and family. El Burro went out of their way to accomodate us. Drinks were served promptly. The chilli poppers were delicious- smokey and fiery. I had the rib-eye steak which was tender,tasty and perfectly grilled. Our waitress was friendly and attentive. Festive evening enjoyed by all.
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  • Reply
    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.
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  • Reply

    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!

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  • Reply
    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!
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  • Reply

    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!

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Specials

Lunch Special

As from Tuesday 24 May, 12:00am – 5:00pm,  most lunch items would cost 50% less.

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Cocktails
  • Fireplace
  • Licensed

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