Winter in Auckland feels like the wrong setting for a burrito – you want it to be beach weather, right for Mexican beer and fun times – which might be why Mexicali Fresh was offering cheap burritos through Grab One recently. This evening, the Newmarket venue was reasonably full, & the guy in front of me in line had two vouchers that looked just like the ones I was about to hand over as payment.
I’ve eaten at Mexicali before – their bueno burrito is vegan if you get it without cheese and sour cream. The place was opened by two brothers from California, and serves the Mexican-style food they knew from home. Mexicali has been open in Auckland since 2005, and has three locations: Prince’s Wharf in the CBD, Nuffield Street in Newmarket and Botany.
The thing is, I like Mexicali okay, and appreciate having another vegan option in Newmarket, but I think eating Californian burritos in California has spoiled me for the exported version. Mexicali serves its burritos in the same red plastic baskets as Zona Rosa next to Golden Gate Park, but doesn’t pack in the same richness of flavour. Having a vegan-almost-by-accident option is great, but doesn’t compare with Sun Rise in San Francisco’s Mission District, where a little family-run Mexican restaurant had vegan cheese and chorizo options on its menu. And perhaps it’s just California’s excessive portion sizes, but it seemed like a standard burrito order always included a side of tortilla chips – Mexicali makes their own chips fresh each day, but charges $5 for a basket (edited to add: or $1 for a mini basket as commented below).
I think some foods are more difficult to transport than others. The bagels we have here are nothing like their New York forebears, for example (it’s about the water, or the fermentation process, or something). Maybe burritos don’t travel. I hope this isn’t the case: my next step in testing this theory will be trying The Original California Burrito Company which has recently opened in Commerce Street in the City – their menu includes tofu sour cream and vegan cheese options. I’m also keen to go back to El Camino to see how their burrito stacks up.
One thing I do love about Mexicali is their flautas for dessert. They’re
corn flour tortillas deepfried in canola oil, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar – a bit like a Mexican donut. Worth a visit on their own merits if you find yourself in Nuffield Street.