One of my longstanding gripes with Montreal’s claim to the title of ‘City of Culinary Delights’ (and I have many—try experiencing food in Australia, and then talk to me) is the dearth of Mexican food. I don’t necessarily mean authentic Mexican; I’m neither a purist, nor a connoisseur, nor even a former visitor to Mexico. My criteria are more ‘Growing Boy’ than ‘Michelin Star’: quick, filling, and delicious, along the lines of the chain of Chipotle Mexican Grills in the U.S. With Mission Quatre (M4) Burritos’ opening last summer, I happily abandon my former criticism.
For anyone who’s been to Chipotle, M4 will be a familiar sight. The aesthetic is brightly lit, industrial chic, with sharp lines, orange seats, and steel all coming together into an environment which seems perfectly adequate for a fast-food eatery. The menu, which forms the basis of the name, is simple: choose the type of dish, the meat, the salsa, and the sides. Choosing a burrito which I found best suited to my array of skills, I opted for the chicken with a medium-hot salsa.
With prompt service and polite staff, the transaction proved to be a painless endeavor. I received a large burrito bursting with chicken; I feared that incorrect handling would lead the volatile food pocket to burst, but managed to sate a sizeable hunger without making a mess. I happily report that it was, despite its chain-like feel, a highly palatable experience.
Burrito Shop is exactly the kind of Mexican restaurant one would expect to find in Southern California. Its location on Saint-Laurent is small and inconspicuous; its prices are incredibly cheap, and its food is spectacular.
The menu is straightforward; if you don’t want a burrito, you can get tacos, quesadillas, nachos, salads, or tortilla soup. The owner, Jacomo Del Rosario, recommended I get the ‘cocinita pibil,’ or marinated pork.
The food seems very simple, but the preparation is complicated. Jacomo wakes up early to prepare the meats fresh every morning. He told me that my cocinita pibil was left overnight in a mixture of orange juice and achiote, then covered with banana leaves and roasted in the oven.
The second time I went to Burrito Shop, I ordered the carnitas—caramelized pork. As the name implies, the pork is caramelized and left to soak overnight in herbs and milk. In the morning, Jacomo fries it with juices, oranges, and coca-cola.
The shop also offers a homemade Jamaica (pronounced ha-mai-cha), a Mexican tea with hibiscus leaves and sugar that tastes like a mild cranberry juice.
What’s most impressive about Burrito Shop is that it brings local, homemade burritos to a city with a blatant lack of Mexican food. Jacomo moved from California to Montreal and was hesitant to open up a restaurant. He originally wanted to call it California Shop because of that simple, cheap, and delicious style of burrito the West Coast is known for, but was unsure how Quebeckers would respond. He opened the store, but changed the name, and business has been impressive ever since.
The first time I went to Burrito Shop, I was shocked that my burrito and Jamaica were under $10. Better yet, students get 10 per cent off their meal with a valid I.D.
Winner: Burrito Shop
For bringing authentic Southern Californian cuisine to the great white North, Burrito Shop takes the title. But both are inarguably worth a visit.