|Bklyn Burro's carne asada burrito (Photo: Tamara Palmer)|
A San Franciscan adrift in New York does not typically have an easy time finding the taste of home when it comes to Mexican food in general - and a burrito in particular. Fortunately, an expatriate from SF has decided to do something about the void with B'klyn Burro, serving up the oversized and properly filled burritos that are indigenous to the Mission District on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday nights at East Williamsburg bar Don Pedro.
"I'm a documentarian first," says proprietor Pepe Urquijo, who first moved East from SF in order to attend film school. It makes some sort of parallel sense that Urquijo would turn his inquisitive mind and storytelling ability to trying to capture a flavor from back home.
While many cite the lack of access to fresh ingredients as a hindrance to recreating a Mission burrito on other shores, Urquijo also feels that the tradition and process of perfecting it over some 40-odd years in San Francisco has been bypassed in New York and elsewhere, with no economic incentive to really get it right. Even the technique of how the flour tortilla is rolled can have a profound effect on the taste.
B'klyn Burro started in February with a few pop-ups at Don Pedro and in other parts of New York City. Urquijo says he took a cue from SF's legendary Tamale Lady, who sells food at popular bars, and has followed her method of making informal partnerships with bars that don't sell anything to eat to slide in and sell some burritos. Don Pedro is now a permanent staple for the Burro, and Urquijo is open to cater special events as well.
The menu offers small soft tacos ($2) and huge burritos ($9 for the size of this writer's forearm), with filling options of al pastor, carne asada, pollo, veggie, and barbacoa lamb, the latter a special that will be celebrated on Cinco de Mayo from 3-9 PM (hours on Tuesday and Wednesday are 6-10 PM).
Urquijo sources large flour tortillas from Mi Barrio's Chicago factory (the BK one only does corn) and says he'll probably soon get them direct from California; he's had a hard time finding anything larger than a 12-inch tortilla in New York. The extra effort, plus the way it's rolled to create the ideal "heel" at the ends, really makes a difference; the tortilla here goes a long way toward getting the flavor right. There's a choice of black or pinto beans, or you can get a mix; the option to make the burrito "a Mission" includes guacamole, cheese, and crema in addition to rice, beans, pico de gallo, and the selected protein.
In all, it's a pretty good approximation. The burrito has the right heft and mouth feel as one from the Mission, though the flavors fall on the muted, subtle side. Even the spicy pork of the al pastor won't send you running for water, which is probably a smart side to err on for this market. One small complaint for the meal: With such nice homemade salsas being served, some more attention should be paid to the chips, which kind of broke the back-home burrito trance. Perhaps a call to SF's famous chippery Casa Sanchez is in order, but otherwise, New Yorkers (and visiting San Franciscans) have a promising new source for Mexican food.