Burro brings tacos and more to Burlington
BURLINGTON — The Alex, on Brant Street, has transformed into Burro.
The Other Bird restaurant group (Rapscallion, Black Sheep, The Arlington Hotel, etc.) already has The Mule in downtown Hamilton, but now Burlington can get a taste of their tacos without the travel.
The dining room is wide enough for a lengthy wooden banquette and a series of tables for two with stools pulled up neatly. A fiesta on the ceiling: four strips of cloth, hanging side by side, run the length of the room, adding punches of colour.
The name of the restaurant is just one nod to Mexico. Two of the cloth strips, red and green, respectively, brought the Mexican flag to mind. And I couldn’t miss the graphic male and female figures with Day of the Dead-style heads on the bathroom doors, which made me wonder what kind of spirits I was going to run into that night.
That spirit turned out to be tequila, of course. The wine list had a Gamay-Cabernet (Rief Estate Winery, Niagara), a Rioja (Vina Echeverria, Chile), and a few other choices, and the “I could use a drink” menu had some classic Mexican beers (Corona, Modelo Negro), and pitchers of sangria. But I went with a cocktail, a mescal sour. It had an enjoyably complex taste, the lemon and lime wrapped in a subtle smoke, and a floral hint of Lillet Rouge that lingered.
After that, I concurred with James Brown, who was belting out “I Feel Good” in the background. I was happy to sip my companion’s margarita, one of the only margaritas I’ve had with the perfect amount of salt on the rim. Just enough to enhance the tequila’s flavour and bring out an interesting mineral quality at the finish.
The drinks echoed the vibe of the music: similar to a wedding mix with tons of dance tunes from the ’70s or thereabouts. Tom Jones. A little “Funky Town.” Oldies but goodies.
The server who took our order handled the room very capably, along with a co-worker whose Tshirt told us of “Important people who like tacos” — this vaunted list included “your mom” and “anyone ever.”
Tacos were the main event but we started with appetizers. First, the whitefish ceviche, covered in radish slices, cilantro, pickled onions and what tasted to me like grated pear, an excellent touch. The fish could have been cut thinner or pounded a bit more to cut down on the chewiness, but the flavours came together with a generous squeeze of lime.
Chorizo nachos came next. Don’t expect the huge plateful you get from the bar, these are more like slightly large tapas servings. The chorizo was a bit underwhelming. It tasted fine but didn’t have that vinegary, spicy zing I prefer, and a few more pieces would have been nice. But the nachos, like the ceviche, were brought up a level with the lime. The accompanying crema also gave a good, acidic kick.
Then, the main event: tacos! Although they did offer “the classic,” there were many non-standard choices, including vegan options such as sweet potato. Burro is also unabashedly gluten-free, so no flour tortillas.
We went with the spicy Brussels sprout, the curried goat, the spicy beef cheek and the fish tacos.
The beef cheek was shredded and served with hot peppers, fried onions and a cabbage slaw. The meat was fine — not super succulent but not dry, either — and the simple slaw added crunch. I found this taco spicy enough, but there was also sauce on the table spiked with paprika and vinegar for those who want to crank up the heat.
The curried goat was heavy on turmeric and lighter on other supporting spices. It came with crema and shaved cabbage. The flavours melded fairly nicely.
The fish taco also had shaved cabbage and crema, along with julienned radishes.
All three tacos gave me the overall impression of being meaty and crunchy, with a touch of cream — but also in terms of flavour intensity, I’d put them at the medium mark. They were certainly tasty enough for my companion and myself to finish them all.
The star of the night: the Brussels sprout taco. The sprouts were roasted and were a touch spicy, but the depth of flavour was striking and, with the other accoutrements, this dish was heavenly.
Dessert called soon after, and we ordered the only choice: bite-size churros. They, too, were glutenfree, made of cornmeal and served with chocolate sauce and a lime whipped cream. Heavier than you’d expect, but lighter than corn bread. So not quite a churro, really, but an interesting alternative.
On the way out, as I looked out of the window that had been behind me throughout the meal, I spied a pretty large patio with a wall covered in a Mexican themed mural.
Summer, tequila and tacos? Sounds like a party to me.
Alana Hudson has cooked at restaurants including Vong, Le Bernardin, and Avalon.
Burro Tacos: the fiesta starts on the ceiling.
The chorizo nachos were spiked with plenty of lime. The accompanying crema also gave a good, acidic kick.
Chocolate-covered cornmeal churros were an interesting gluten-free alternative.