El Burro review

El Burro has taken over the space where Buena Vista used to be in Greenpoint, above Dopio Zero. I have to say that they have transformed the space into something quite fabulous. I was impressed with the way it looks and everyone I’ve taken there has also been impressed. Not only is the decor really cool, but they have removed the lounge and moved the bar so the space has really opened up. There are a lot more tables and chairs (and booths) but the place is not cramped anymore, you don’t have to stick your bum in someone’s face as you squeeze between tables like you had to do at Buena Vista.

The venue has a  much lighter and open feel about it, a genuinely pleasant space in which to spend time. I’ve included quite a few pictures of the space  (click on them to zoom in) so that you can see the amazing light fittings, the assymetric shelves with pot plants on set against raw brick. You can also see the red wall at the bar side with interesting things hanging on the wall and there is also a pic of the outside area with fairy lights around hanging pot plants. The place just looks awesome, even the logo is cool.

But there is something missing. Buena Vista may have been dingy and cramped, but it had a great vibe and the place used to rock till the early hours of the morning. I was at El Burro with a group of friends celebrating a birthday on a Friday night recently. There must have been about thirty of us and we were keen for some festivities, but once everyone had eaten we had a couple of drinks at the bar, chatted and left. I think I’ve worked out why. It’s the sound. The speakers are smaller than the speakers I have attached to my computer and so the sound is weak. I don’t think it’s necessarily the volume, I think it just doesn’t have enough power to create a vibe. But maybe they don’t want a festive bar vibe, maybe they want people to go there for the food. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

El Burro is not your typical Mexican restaurant serving cheap Tex Mex food. The offering is more sophisticated and apparently more authentic. I must be honest, I have never been to Mexico so I can’t tell you what authentic Mexican food is like. But, by strange coincidence another ‘authentic’ Mexican restaurant, called San Julian,  has opened nearby El Burro. San Julian is run by a Mexican family which immigrated here a few months back. When I say run, I mean the brother cooks, the sister serves and the father plays the guitar and sings Mexican folk songs (quite well). The point being, the food is completely different to El Burro. You can read my full San Julian review here, there are quite a few interesting comments.

I’ve eaten at El Burro twice, the first time I went with some friends and didn’t enjoy it so they asked me to return and try some of the other menu items. The second visit was certainly better. On the first occasion I tried the chiles rellenos (their version of chilli poppers – R46) to start. These are not battered and fried but are grilled and have a very smoky flavour. None of us were excited about them. Someone else ordered the ceviche starter (R54) which reminded me of tuna salad. I tried it again on my second visit and it was much better. On my second visit I had the elotes (R32) which were interesting and quite nice. Basically corn on the cob with mayo and spices.

On my first visit I had a fried corn quesadilla (R65) for mains and it was terrible. It’s made from fresh corn dough which just sucks up the oil, I couldn’t eat more than half of it. One person ordered the mushroom quesadilla (R70) which is grilled and was a lot nicer.

On my second visit I opted for the tacos. I selected the pork shoulder (R66) filling and it was pretty good. My partner ordered the linefish which was Norwegian Salmon and she enjoyed it. The sides and condiments are quite unusual (apart from the ubiquitous guacamole and sour cream). Pickled red onion and roasted tomato relish accompany the salsa and more.

I thought I would try the creme caramel (R32) for dessert, being a big fan, but it was really not good. Despite the waitress assuring me it was the best in the universe, ever. It lacked flavour and was to heavy/thick.

So depending on what you order you can have a bad meal or a good meal, but not a fantastic meal. This is why I don’t think El Burro should focus on the food. I wouldn’t go there to eat, but if I was going there anyway, I would eat. I say up the vibe, and let people enjoy the beautiful space.

The wine list is short but reasonably priced, offering one or two options of each cultivar. The most expensive is R185 for Meinert Printer’s Ink and the house wine is Swartland at R70 a bottle or R23 per glass. There are six other wines available by the glass. It’s not a particularly interesting list, you will recognise all of the names, but at least the wines are fairly good quality. I actually enjoyed a cocktail called a Paloma (R35) which is quite tangy and refreshing. The margarita at R35 is also a good option.

In terms of service, no complaints.

You really need to get to El Burro just to see the space, even if you just have a drink (try one of their 27 tequilas). If you decide to eat, order carefully and you’ll have a good meal.

El Burro restaurant
1st Floor Exhibition Building, 81 Main Rd, Greenpoint
Tel: 021 433 2364


  1. quebin February 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm


  2. emilee February 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    agree with you on the food, have eaten there and the food was ok. it was prepared well and was a lot more healthy compared to other mexican places I’ve eaten at but somehow it didnt have that wow factor.
    also agree on the vibe, been there a few times to meet up with friends who have eaten, to join them for a drink, not much vibe happening there, nice to sit outside but very chilled, the evening kind of just fizzles out.
    I ordered two margaritas from the bar and it was R98 which i found quite expensive.

  3. Andrew February 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t know guys. Are you not being too harsh on the food?

    I spoke to the owners and they really have trouble getting the right ingredients. Their food is about a million times better than the other Mexican places we’ve had to endure.

    Oh, emilee, I paid R35 for a margarita…..not too sure if you got overcharged or your maths is not great.

    At any rate, they are always really busy, so something must be going right. Right? I also suppose the space has left a legacy of partying into the night, which I did many times when it was Beuno Vista. El Burro is a restaurant, so why the pressure on them to drink till 2am?

    Just sayin

  4. lisa Malcomess March 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Hey Dax – you are going to HAVE to give it another try, you must have had 2 unlucky nights. We went there last night for the first time for a quick bite and landed up staying 4 hours. Loved every minute and will certainly be back. I thought it was pretty vibey, especially for a Tuesday night. Every table was full and quite a few tables turned. Icy Margarita’s, with just enough salt. Yum. We sat outside on the veranda in amongst all the fairy lights and cacti, with a fabulous view of the stadium which was all lit up and looked just like an ocean going liner from our angle – or was it the Margarita’s?

    I LOVED the smoky chilly popper “thingies” and the corn “thingy” starters, but my best was my main dish – the Prawn Special. Two tacos’ literally spilling over with prawns, mango salsa and chilly mayonnaise. It was a taste extravaganza. Couldn’t believe all the flavours… oooh just thinking about it is making my mouth water!!

    The service was excellent and loved the Mexican dresses they wore. The deserts definitely deserved more of my attention, but after a wonderful evening and so much delicious food, I hate to admit I ignored them a bit. But I did nible on the cheese cake which, the waitress promised, is made fresh on the premises. Not very Mexican you might think.. but served with a chilly syrup, and it takes on a whole new accent.

    A really, really great evening, will definitely be back for more of their DELICIOUS grown-up Mexican food.