REVIEW: Mamacitas in Cape Town’s East City serves up tequila-drenched Cal-Mex charm

Address: 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Phone number: 083 660 5515 (WhatsApp)

Opening times: Daily 11am till late

Average price of a main course: R160 to R170 with some more expensive items

Corkage fee: R50

Parking situation: Street, paid open-air parking lot nearby

Food type: Cal-Mex


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Long Street seems to be on an irreversible descent into sleaziness and has been for a while; Bree and Kloof streets are long stretches of restaurants even when you can’t possibly think where (or why) they would fit in yet another burger joint. And then there’s the East City, Harrington Street in particular, which has been cool even before it became as cool as it is now. Mamacitas brings a Cal-Mex vibe to the precinct, with funky décor, hearty portions, and cocktails for days.


We’re familiar with Tex Mex, so what is Cal-Mex? The internet is mildly useful: “Cal-Mex, a fusion of California cuisine and traditional Mexican cooking, is known for fresh and seasonal ingredients, lighter proteins and plant-forward dishes.”

Sure, there are enough options to satisfy a vegetarian, but there is also plenty of chicken, pulled pork and pulled beef, plus a few fish dishes and tapas – simple nachos and guac is great to nibble with your first margarita. Breakfast is served until 3pm (you’ve got to love the City Bowl), and there are some super platter options if you’re a crowd.

What Mamacitas says: “We’ve taken the soul of LA’s street food and elevated it to an art form. Our culinary creations are inspired by the diverse communities and flavors (sic) that make up this remarkable city.”

Is it even any kind of Mex if there isn’t Tacos Tuesdays? Here, you can have any soft taco, any number of them, any of the three fillings, for R45 each. A normal portion of three (one filling in all of them) is R149. Choose between buffalo chicken, pulled beef, or BBQ pulled pork. The pulled pork burrito is the size of a baby’s arm, containing pork, obviously, smoky paprika aioli, spicy rice, guacamole, refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo – everything you’d want in a burrito. The whole thing is rolled, toasted, and drizzled with sour cream. Best of all, it does not fall apart on its journey from plate to mouth.

It was sad two of the desserts were not available when we visited, because who wouldn’t want to smash a – wait for it… cheesecake-filled churro, topped with cool whip, passion fruit and lemon zest in their face? The chilli chocolate cigars (fried in phyllo) are probably quite nice but when you’ve set your heart on something, it just won’t do.


In one word: Tequila. As it should be. There’s an entire menu for that alone. Then another for cocktails, and a wine list which has some surprisingly good options that you wouldn’t really expect at a casual eatery. Like Creation Pinot Noir. The cocktails are superb; the signatures all contain good-quality tequila that doesn’t get hidden away beneath the other elements and ingredients. There are classic cocktails and there are premium cocktails. Then there is the West Coast Rita, a strawberry or lime margarita with a bottle of Sol, Corona or Savanna tipped into it. For the thirst, of course.


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A tad on the casual side. Yes, it was quiet, and there was no booking required for lunchtime, but greeting and seating was unhurried. Do you want more than this? Somewhere with linen table cloths and napkins, maybe. Yes. Here, it’s enough that the waitress’s recommendations are spot on, and you can have a spot of banter, and the meal pace ticks along nicely.


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The bar is a thing of beauty, with its garish Mex-themed religious iconography, neon-light slogans, and presumably at night the candles in the shrine-like alcoves will be lit. Seating is casual and basic, while there is a slightly elevated mezzanine level close to the kitchen, with banquette and cushions. Running the length of the restaurant is an outside alley with tables where you can smoke. Plates are functional enamel, but your cocktail is going to be in a gorgeous glass, a little mini work of art.

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

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