One of the best things about Berkeley is that it has a huge variety of food options in nice walking distance. But even with all this diversity, there are sometimes more than one of our favorite joints. Here’s a comparative review of the two renditions of our local Mexican eatery, La Burrita.
Northside La Burrita
Aesthetics and amenities:
Ay que bonita! Up on Euclid Avenue, this place has got a picturesque walkway to lead you off-road and into a cozy little food nook. Northside La Burrita has welcoming down to a tee. If you’re looking for a nice, airy place to relax and eat some reasonably priced burritos over lunch break, it’s perfect. The interior has more than enough seating for everyone from the single diner to the party-of-eight, and outside seating is always available if you’d rather enjoy a nice day in the comfort of some satisfying shade. Tapatío and salt and pepper shakers are evenly dispersed around the tables, and everything is noticeably clean. They’ve left some space near the cashier so long lines never seem too cramped. There are some pictures and murals along the wall that add to the casual and open ambiance. Although it shares a restroom with the rest of the restaurants in the building, it isn’t too inconvenient to walk through La Val’s and there usually isn’t a wait. The overall atmosphere is satisfyingly charming.
Food and service
For the food comparison, I ordered a Carne Asada Special Burrito for a decent $7.33 including tax. My burrito was made incredibly quickly in just under two minutes, and the cashier, as always, was friendly and appreciative when I came to the counter for pick-up. There was a healthy amount of meat in the burrito that was juicy and flavorful without being too salty, and there was a nice overall balance of fillings. The best feature of the food here is how customizable it is. There are five different salsa options, each with a unique spice and flavor, and all the limones, jalapeños and zanahorias en escabeche you could ever want. They also offer four different tortilla options and a variety of aguas frescas. And, with any purchase over $3.00 (though an old mural says $2.00), you are allowed free range to the self-serve chips, some of which are amusingly red. Although the salsa seemed a little old and the chips a little thin and oily, the food is generally of a good quality in a filling quantity.
Southside La Burrita
Aesthetics and Amenities:
Even with construction just next door, Southside La Burrita still has the pull to draw in a good number of loyal customers. There’s significantly less interior space than on Northside, but this creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere. There’s very little seating, even with the extended seating in the outdoor patio area (which doesn’t amount to much), but this La Burrita seems to be focusing a lot more on the to-go side of the business anyway. With the kitchen pressed right up against the cash register on both sides, there’s very little room for blatant aesthetic decorations, although there are some ingredients stored around the shop that highlight the functionality and efficiency of the place. If there is a restroom, I couldn’t find it, although I doubt this becomes a problem to most customers. With simple brick walls lined with Best of Berkeley plaques, Southside is more reminiscent of a neighborly Mexican taqueria. Overall, the place is lovable because it has character that works perfectly in its environment.
Food and service:
Here, I ordered another Carne Asada Special Burrito for the same $7.33 including tax. The service on Southside was also very quick, and even though it was a little more crowded, the turnaround from order to order-up was still under five minutes. The prep is tailored to take-out, with chips being tossed into a paper bag along with the rest of your food. Here, there aren’t many toppings and sides, but the salsa bar is chock-full of six different options and the same aguas frescas are offered. And these salsas taste a lot fresher (whether they are or not) than on Northside. The chips are also less thin and oily, although there are no festive red chips mixed in. As for the burrito, I was surprised to find that the same order could have such a different taste: Now, the burrito was sloppier and wetter because there was substantially more guacamole and sour cream mixed in. Although the different flavors of the individual ingredients mixed together a bit and sometimes almost overpowered the meat, the burrito as a whole was enjoyable. All in all, the quality of the chips and salsa coupled with the satisfyingly messy burrito was a gratifying experience.
Though very similar, both La Burritas offer different experiences, and together, cover all your casual Mexican dining desires. Northside has a bit more focus on the sit-down experience and the food is a little more organized, while Southside is a great take-out option with a sloppier but equally satisfying culinary experience. With Northside open 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Southside open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the La Burrita franchise has got all the hours from early brunch to fourth meal covered. So, no matter which La Burrita you chose, it’s safe to expect a nice experience and refreshing meal.
Contact Raeline Valbuena at [email protected].