One of my best friends from college was born on Cinco de Mayo, so each year we look for a special Mexican place to celebrate. This year the birthday girl's wish was to try Burro Bar in Brookline, the sibling of The Painted Burro in Somerville, which is my undisputed favorite place for brunch right now.
I had tried to go to Burro Bar in the first two weeks it was open, but the wait was over two and a half hours. This time around I made a reservation through Burro Bar's website, which was easy peasy.
The restaurant is on Beacon Street in Brookline, in the space formerly occupied by Ribelle. As you can see from the stack of chairs to the far left, in the nice weather they have outdoor seating.
As soon as we walked in the hostess ushered us to our table. The Burro Bar space is pretty small and they make use of every single inch. The tables are so close together they have to slide them to the left or right to let people shimmy into the booth side.
We were handed two menus, the one on top was a list of nothing but tequila. I love the header "One tequila, two tequila." Everyone knows that chant finishes with "Floor!"
We were very excited to check out the food menu, especially because Burro Bar doesn't have their menu up on the website at the moment. I'm not sure if they are trying to generate intrigue and mystery, but it definitely built up our excitement throughout the day.
Since we were toasting to the birthday queen, our first order of business was drinks. She selected a cocktail called the Papa Doble, which was Privateer Silver rum, luxardo maraschino cherry, grapefruit and lime.
After a few sips she commented, "This is so fresh. It has a strong grapefruit taste, which I love. It's just so smooth."
I decided on the passion fruit margarita, which was fantastic. It tasted like nothing but pure passion fruit juice. Almost like a drink you'd get at a botanical garden or on a tropical vacation.
While we looked over the food menu, our waiter brought chips and salsa. Unfortunately the chips were a bit stale and the salsa was runny. My friend said, "This is more like a sauce than a true chunky salsa."
After perusing the full menu, we chose two appetizers to share. The first to arrive was the Mexican street corn with garlic mojo, serrano chile, cotija cheese, cayenne pepper and lime.
This wasn't at all what I was expecting. I feel like street corn normally comes on the cob and slathered in some type of mayo / cotija cheese mixture. This rendition was mayo-free and much more sophisticated.
The primary flavor was browned garlic. A warning to anyone thinking of ordering this on a date - way too potent!
We also shared the queso with heirloom squash purée, roasted cauliflower, spiced pepitas and cilantro.
We are both obsessed with the queso at Bandita in Brighton, so we knew there was a chance we'd be disappointed. Right off the bat we were sad to see the queso wasn't bubbling hot. We were also bummed when it turned out the cauliflower florets didn't have any seasoning or flavor.
As we started to dig into the queso, we couldn't quite figure out where the squash was. It took a few bites before we discovered it under the cheese! The cheese and squash purée combination was heavenly and saved the dish.
For the next course, we each ordered two tacos. The birthday girl opted for the evening's special, a carne asada taco, and the blackened mahi taco.
On the carne asada taco she shared, "The steak was very tender. This had a good balance of flavors between the charred pineapple, the roasted tomato salsa and the crema."
She wasn't quite as pleased with the mahi, remarking, "The charred pineapple was tasty on here, as was the jicama slaw, but the fish felt dry. I don't think I would order this one again."
As I mentioned earlier, the Burro Bar menu isn't on their website, so I was bit nervous they might not have a vegetarian taco option. I was thrilled to discover there was not only one, but two! Naturally I ordered both.
The veggie taco came piled high with roasted mushrooms, spring onions, grilled ramps, pea green salad, carrot and habañero mole and a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette.
I wanted to love this, but I couldn't seem to cut the grilled ramps with my teeth, making it super awkward to try and take small bites. I eventually had to take the ramps out of the taco completely and eat it without them.
That aside, I really liked the flavor of the mushrooms and onions and I appreciated that the taco had two tortillas, helping to keep the whole thing from falling apart.
My second taco was the crispy tofu. Each piece of tofu had a hot chile and tamarind glaze. Those pieces were then topped with a blue cheese and brussels sprouts slaw and crema.
I wish I had ordered two of these! The glaze tasted like Buffalo sauce (my favorite) and the blue cheese in the taco was the perfect compliment. Weirdly, this taco only had one tortilla, so I had to eat it super quickly before it suffered a rip or a hole!
Side bar: when we were little, my sister had an idea for edible tortilla tape and each time my taco or burrito busts open, I wonder why she never pursued it.
While noshing on our tacos, we indulged in a second round of drinks. Another passion fruit margarita for me and a hibiscus margarita for the birthday girl. I was entranced by the gorgeous, fuchsia color.
She took her first sip and said, "I was worried this would be too sweet, but it really isn't at all. If anything, it's more floral."
When the taco plates were cleared, our waiter asked if we were interested in dessert. Though I always am, we already had cake waiting, so we passed.
If you love Painted Burro in Somerville, you will be equally smitten with Burro Bar. The fun thing is, their menus are completely different, so you can taste your way through a whole new list of items. If you decide to go, definitely make a reservation as the place is small and always packed.