BURRITOS MEXICAN HOUSE (1353 St. Clair West, at Lansdowne, 416-509-4717) Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Mexican soda. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11 am to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: short step at door, washroom on same floor. Rating: NNN
Holes-in-the-wall don’t come any holier than Burritos Mexican House.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot on the western end of the Corso Italia, the modest storefront looks less than welcoming at first, its windows barred and partially blocked by heavy curtains.
But once you’re through the door, the welcome is warm, every one of the mostly Latino clientele met with a cheerful “¡Ola!” from owner/chef Elsa Arriola.
Originally from Monterrey in northeast Mexico, she opened Burritos 15 months ago. It’s a fairly simple set-up – a half-dozen tables topped with shiny red vinyl and rung with cheap stacking chairs, beige walls in need of a coat of paint and sporting an obligatory sombrero, old black-and-white daguerreotypes of Zapata and posse, and a few religious knick-knacks. Authentic enough for you?
The menu has expanded since I first visited a year ago after a trek to La Paloma next door. Arriola’s tacos (all $10 for six) may lack the finesse of those served by Rebozos, and they don’t benefit from freshly made wrappers like those at La Tortillera, but they get the job done – my favourite being her gloriously fatty pork shoulder carnitas that virtually dissolve on the tongue.
All (there’s also cubed lamb barbacoa, marinated pork trompo and bistec) come minimally topped with raw diced onion, chopped cilantro and one of two salsas – fiery red and slightly less incendiary green. They’re even tastier with a spoonful of her pico de gallo.
Most meals start with a bowl of very good commercial corn chips accompanied by an innocent-looking house-made pickled jalapeño hot sauce that can cause coughing fits in the unwary.
Guacamole ($6) is even more surprising, a made-to-order mulch of lumpy avocado laced with lime, quite possibly one of the better guacs around. New to me, encremados ($7 for four) are rolled-up tortillas stuffed with tangy shredded chicken in tomato sauce, the lot liberally dolloped with sour cream.
Burritos’ burritos? They’re messy affairs, flour tortillas stuffed with a kitchen sink of ingredients in the California style, including avocado, refried beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa, mozzarella cheese and more sour cream.
The mole chicken burrito gets doused in a raunchy red chili sauce, while the Norteña (both $8.50) adds sliced roast beef, chicken breast and bacon to the mix as if it were some Mexican submarine.
But why side them with frozen French fries? Surely, that’s not the way they serve them back in Monterrey.
“It is,” counters a momentarily startled Arriola. “Everybody likes French fries!”