Share This Page

El Burro brings genuine Mexican flavor to the North Side

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 9:29 p.m.
A chorizzo buritto, potato-filled tacos, and carne asada fries at El Burro on the Northside on Thursday, November 8, 2012. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
A chorizo burrito, potato-filled tacos and carne asada fries at El Burro on the North Side.

Derek Burnell may be bullish on the North Side, but Mexican food has been a passion since he was a child.

He opened El Burro on Federal Street on Nov. 2. By the middle of the following week, Burnell and co-owner Wes de Renouard were very busy at lunchtime. There is a rail with bar stools extending around the interior of the small space for people who wish to eat right away, but much of the business is takeout.

“We are very limited in size and storage, so we are truly making everything every day,” he says. “We have food deliveries every day, which is not the easiest thing when you have to do inventory twice a day.”

El Burro is an expansion from Burnell's Round Corner Cantina at 3720 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, which opened in 2009 and where the food serves as snacks to eat with beers and tequila. El Burro is all about the food.

Burnell grew up in San Diego, 15 minutes from the Mexican border.

“My dad and I would go down there every weekend or every other weekend. We'd have a Mexican doughnut for breakfast, spend 2 to 3 hours and come home,” he says. “When I was older, I'd go down to have beers. It felt like a second home. There, Mexican and American cultures are one and the same. When we'd barbecue at home, it was always grilled Mexican food.”

He was confident the North Side was the right location for his new business.

“The North Side is beautiful. I think it has the highest concentration of interesting and beautiful buildings, but there are not enough places for people to eat. I think that alone is reason enough to come in and open a good place. There are a dozen fantastic restaurants on the North Side, but a dozen isn't enough.”

He's also aware that he's located in a section of the North Side showing revitalization even before the Garden Theater Block is redeveloped. With Allegheny General Hospital, museums and other businesses in walking distance, his location can serve a large base of potential customers. The area will soon be called Allegheny Central City.

El Burro's menu is dominated by 11 varieties of burritos, $4.95 to $7.49. The fillings include bean and cheese, carne asada, chile relleno, chorizo, shredded beef and chicken, and shrimp.

Hard or soft tacos are $2.49 with a variety of meat or potato fillings. Rolled tacos are $5.95 with shredded beef or chicken, and $4.95 for potato.

Burnell's Southern California roots show in the Flying Saucer, $6.95. It's a flat, fried, flour tortilla with a mound of whatever you want on it, such as refried beans, chorizo, cheese, fresh avocado and slices of tomato.

Sides, including sour cream, refried beans, rice, salsa, and chips and salsa, are 79 cents to $2.95. Guacamole is available in a small portion for $1 or $4.49 for a large one.

Beverages include Jarritos Mexican soda, $2.29 and Mexican Coke, $2.49, the latter in glass bottles and made from the old recipe with cane sugar.

El Burro, 1108 Federal St., North Side. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Details: 412-904-3451

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.