Restaurante Burritos El Mexicano a hidden gem

05/08/2014 1:35 PM

05/08/2014 5:50 PM

Restaurante Burritos El Mexicano in south Wichita is a gem hidden inside an old circa-1950s drive-in diner. It falls into a familiar category of Mexican restaurants I love, which I’ll call “taco and burrito joint.” The menu is full of items similar to Lalo’s Express and Tacos Lopez. The typical offerings include tacos, burritos, tortas and breakfast burritos, as well as Americanized favorites. There’s no shortage of choices, and prices are very reasonable.

When I visit a taco and burrito joint, I head straight for my old standards, as if to give it sort of a test run. If these items don’t pass, then it’s not worth trying anything else. Restaurante Burritos El Mexicano passed my test with flying colors.

We were greeted by one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve encountered at a restaurant. The man on duty took great care of us. I ordered two street-style tacos, barbacoa and carne asada, which both came loaded with onions, cilantro and guacamole. While the barbacoa was juicy and very tender, it was just slightly lacking in that stewy, beefy flavor that comes from the cheek meat. However, the steak morsels in the carne asada were bursting with grilled flavor and left me wanting more.

We hit the lunch hour a bit early, and the carnitas was not quite ready for serving. We opted instead to have a Colorado Burrito, which was filled with grilled steak, fried potatoes, cheese, onions and tomatoes. I liken this to the steak skillet at the long-gone Garden Cafe (21st and Woodlawn), disguised as a burrito. The crispy fried potatoes, tender steak and juicy veggies wrapped in a huge and very thin locally made tortilla made this one of the most exciting eats I’ve encountered in recent months.

My wife opted for the Machaca burrito: stewed and then shredded beef, onion, bell pepper, scrambled eggs and a touch of cheese, rolled into the huge tortilla. Our server suggested adding a bit of beans, which we did, and it was a great idea. Bursting with juicy flavor, this burrito was simple, yet delicious. Our meals came with a heaping basket of freshly fried tortilla chips and two bowls of fresh salsa. We were also presented with two additional salsas, a mild green tomatillo and a hot red salsa. All were flavorful and tasted great on our food.

From the street, this restaurant looked sort of questionable. But we aren’t afraid of a little adventure, and this stop on our gastric journey was well worth it. This unassuming building houses some of the best food in south Wichita. And since it’s been open for five years, others must feel the same way.

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