The classic El burro ceviche is a perennial favourite and made with whatever sustainable white fish they can source. Spiked with lime, coriander, ginger and chilli, this popular dish is served with crunchy corn chips for scooping. Or opt for the citrus ceviche – made with grapefruit instead of lime – or the vegetarian oyster mushroom cerviche. All are the perfect way to start your meal.
The build-your-own tacos are highly recommended and are offered with either corn or flour tortillas. Fillings like fried fish, Chilorio pork (twice-cooked pork shoulder in a garlic-and-chilli paste with oreganum and paprika) and grilled chicken are served with a tray of traditional Mexican accompaniments of sour cream, lightly pickled red onions and guacamole.
Chicken mole poblano – a national dish of Mexico – is on the menu too. Deboned chicken is roasted in tomato and dark couverture chocolate with roasted almonds and toasted spices. Served with green rice, refried beans, pickled red onions and sesame, this is as authentic as it gets.
Vegetarians are well catered for, with exotic mushroom and white bean quesadillas and the broccoli and falafel tacos, which are vegan too.
For dessert, the fried churros with chocolate sauce is an absolute must.
This is the place to drink tequila – they have a wide range of specially imported brands. The same goes for their tequila-based cocktails, which pair perfectly with the food. Beer is the other obvious pairing and they have a well-curated list of craft beers. The wine list is excellent, with a good selection offered by the glass.
Service is efficient and friendly from well-trained staff adorned in colourful Mexican dresses.
The décor is vibrant and warm. At night the restaurant is cozy, with candle-lit tables.
In summer, the balcony is highly sought after so be sure to request this when you make your booking – which is essential on weekends and advisable at all other times.
People still talk about it, and it’s no wonder: the ceviche at El Burro never gets old. A generous serving of chopped line fish, zippy with lime, ginger, chilli and coriander, plus the punch of red-onion slivers, comes with a few stacked nacho chips for ease of scooping. Another winning starter, the chilli rellenos, are smoky, flavoursome and filled with queso fresco, which is the perfect balance between melty and chewy. A fresh little side salad is a nice touch. You could also opt for pan-seared squid or fried taquitos to kick things off.
For mains, the build-your-own tacos with cholorio pork (twice-cooked pork shoulder with roasted garlic and chilli paste, origanum, paprika and chilli) is as delicious as it sounds: rich and tasty, leaving behind a tingling warmth on the tongue. You can choose from flour or corn tacos, which come in their own container to prevent them from drying out while you pick. (Swap out the pork for line fish or grilled chicken if that’s how you roll). It’s all part of the fun to dip into the bowls of guacamole, roasted and fresh tomato-and-onion salsa, pickled red onion and sour cream, allowing you to paint a different flavour picture with each mouthful.
The chicken mole with its spicy dark chocolate sauce is also popular here, and banters can opt for the line fish of the day served on courgette ribbons with a lemon butter sauce.
Vegetarians are looked after with options that show a lot of care, such as the field mushroom and black bean quesadilla with spinach, chipotle and goat’s cheese; the tenderstem broccoli and walnut taco with baby spinach and goat’s cheese served on corn tortillas; and the corn tacos with spiced cauliflower, chickpeas, red cabbage, roasted peanut, chilli and avocado.
For dessert, forget the chocolate fondant and rather stick to the theme with golden churros dipped in dark chocolate sauce or the les paletas ice lollies.
The festive atmosphere almost demands that you start with a cocktail. The offering of tequila cocktails is very appealing, peppered with the likes of mint, lime, berries, basil and chilli. There are a few wines available by the glass (very reasonably priced from R25 to R42), but with this fare you’re probably better off with a cocktail, beer or one of the 20 tequilas. The Mexican hot chocolate is rich, spicy and nutty, and the milky horchata made with rice, cinnamon, almonds and lime offers a cool alternative to the juice of the day if you’re forgoing the alcohol.
Once you’ve walked up the steep stairway from Main Road and step through the doors, you feel like you’ve entered another world – one where women have flowers in their hair and flickering candlelight creates a vibrant yet cosy warmth. Little cactus pots line the walls to add some Mexican-themed greenery. A little paper donkey with your name on it keeps your place at the table if you’ve made a booking – which you absolutely should do. (You will even get a phone call before the day to confirm your booking.)
Attentive and polite. Our waitress seemed genuinely interested in how we were enjoying the meal, and was concerned she’d brought the mains too soon after the starters. We ended up rearranging plates to keep some of the starter titbits while we tucked into our mains – it all worked out into a veritable feast.
Parking can be pretty tricky in this part of town, so rather get a taxi. Then you can really apply yourself to the tequila menu.
This Cape Town darling has proven to be the choice of the people, and the restaurant recognises the support by faithfully thanking its regulars. They aim to serve authentic Mexican cuisine; no Tex-Mex or Mexican junk comfort food here, just wholesome, well-executed dishes and tequila. The mainstay on the starter menu has been the white fish ceviche. A little gaudier than traditional ceviche, it does deliver on flavour. A changing, seasonal menu keeps things exciting, especially seeing as most custom comes from the regulars. Some items are a bit hit and miss, but the most popular ones tend to forge a permanent place on the roster. If you’re not too hungry, the chorizo or vegetarian (aubergine, artichoke, spinach) quesadillas are great picks. But no proper dinner at El Burro should exclude the legendary build-your-own tortillas. The chilorio pork – slow-cooked pork shoulder with Mexican Arbol chilli – is a spicy number that’s been on the menu from day one. Choose flour or corn tortillas or both, and a tray of accompaniments arrives with it. The braised lamb tacos, fish tacos and pork carnitas are other very popular choices, and the cabrito (slow-cooked goat), when it is on the menu, is not to be missed. Vegetarians are well taken care of. If you have no room for a pud, at least have a signature ice-lolly, of which the flavours change regularly.
Start innocently enough with a fruity agua fresca in pineapple, or whatever flavour’s hot that day, then proceed to the well-curated range of tequilas or craft beers. And if you’re going to end the night with shots, you know what to pick. When in Mexico!
The wonderful wait staff are consistently excellent, and, curiously, all female. There’s some pretty detail on the uniforms they wear.
El Burro or “the donkey” attracts a young crowd and can get festive, but a weekday lunch tends to be a quieter affair. Because of the staggering noise levels, it’s hard to hold a conversation, so leave the long discussions for a coffee shop and bring your besties in for an evening of bold flavours, toasting your good taste in food.
The churros with a dark chocolate dipping sauce deserve special mention.
Graham HoweThe food
Linda ScarboroughThe food
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!
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 ,(
Amazing restaurant. I have been to Mexico a few times and find the food represented well by El Burro. The fact that they also make fresh corn tortillas blows me away. Will be back.
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 absolutely loved the food and the ambience at El Burro. I was delighted to find this little gem.
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...
Very vibey with great service! Go with a big group of friends and magarita away!
A groovy venue that serves stunning food...no mountains of melted cheese all over everything here! Fish taco is divine.
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!
Had the pleasure of dining at El Burro last night .Food and service was outstanding . We had the Mole Pablano and Carne Asada which I can highly recommend. Cannot wait to go back .
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.
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).
Have been there several times, have had amazing meals, great cocktails and exceptional service. Great place to unwind.
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.
Love, love, love this place for a lazy Saturday lunch on the balcony. The short rib taco is incredible, as is the cabrito, and the cocktails are good quality and reasonably priced. Ticks all my boxes.
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.