The Bite: Fight The Winter Chills With El Mexicano’s Beefy Burrito

The Bite: Fight The Winter Chills With El Mexicano’s Beefy Burrito
El Mexicano Restaurante's burrito. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)
El Mexicano Restaurante’s burrito. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

THE BITE: Sometimes, the best way to stay warm during a cold snap is to hunker down with a meaty sandwich. Neighbors in Sheepshead Bay already have a few favorites to fight the winter chills — the roast beef offered at Brennan & Carr or Roll-N-Roaster, and of course there are treasured delis like Jay & Lloyd’s and Jimmy’s Famous Heros to offer hearty, protein-packed meals.

But did you ever consider cuisine from south of the border to stave off the shivers? The burrito may have originated in Mexico, but the beefy sandwich, which swaps out the bread for a flour tortilla, is just as equipped as anything else to bring belly-warming comfort to wind-chapped New Yorkers.

Which is how I felt when I stumbled into El Mexicano Restaurante (2102 East 15th Street), right around the corner from the Avenue U subway station. The eatery’s atmosphere was festive and inviting, with some of the holiday decorations still strung up alongside a few sombreros and a painting of the Virgin Mary. The seating area offers cushioned wooden chairs beside glass-topped tables. Cheery lamps hang from the tin-plated ceiling.

The inside of El Mexicano Restaurante.
The inside of El Mexicano Restaurante. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

The menu featured the expected offerings: tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and sopas. There was also some American fare, like burgers, chicken wings, and fried shrimp. But when I stepped up to the counter to order, I already knew I wanted the burrito ($7.50), made with beef, beans, tomato, corn, peppers, lettuce, cheddar, and sour cream.

One thing I noticed: El Mexicano Restaurante must do a lot of take-out orders. Not only was the place empty (A few men did sit down to eat later on), but I was given my food in a to-go bag without asking for one.

Never mind. I was hungry and cold and I took my meal over to a table to eat.

The first thing I observed after pulling my prize from the bag was that my burrito was enormous. It was about the size of a brick and weighed about the same. “How am I going to eat this monster?” I thought while staring with bewilderment at the massive meal. I examined my food the same a way person might decide how to defuse a bomb: “Where do I start? Do I need special tools?”

I later asked one of the employees how much their burrito weighed. She said she didn’t know and that kitchen usually just eyeballs things when putting in the ingredients — though she did explain that the worker who makes the burrito with a little “extra beef” was off for the night. Glad I missed him.

The restaurant seems to be aware that their burrito is stunningly enormous. Which is probably why they perform the courtesy of cutting the thing in half and providing a fork for their diners. I split the burrito in two, stared at the hunks of beef crowding out of the burrito, and took a bite.

El Mexicano Restaurante was thoughtful enough to cut their enormous burrito in half.
El Mexicano Restaurante was thoughtful enough to cut their enormous burrito in half. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

While the size the burrito would be a major selling point for me, I was also satisfied by the taste. Oftentimes, I find that the flavors in a burrito glob together. With the El Mexicano burrito, each flavor danced distinctively on my palate. I could immediately recognize the soft, mellow cheddar, the smooth sweetness of the sour cream, the flash of freshness from the peppers and tomatoes, and the peppery, grill flavor in the beef. The presence of the different tastes told me El Mexicano Restaurante puts a premium on their ingredients.

The fork also came in handy near the end of the meal. I’ve always thought that a good burrito should be messy. And there was a pile of beef, beans, and veggies waiting for me after I had scarfed it down.

At the end of the meal, I stumbled back out into the cold, with a full belly and ready to doze off for the night. If you’re ever around Avenue U and are cold and hungry, considering taking a peek inside. You’ll be happy you did.

The entrance to El Mexicano Restaurante.
The entrance to El Mexicano Restaurante. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

El Mexicano Restaurante, 2102 East 15th Street, between Avenue U and Avenue V, 718-676-2700. Open Sunday – Friday, 11am – 11pm. Closed Saturdays.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ column exploring the foodstuffs of the Sheepshead Bay area. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.