I vividly remember the first time I had a burrito. It was at Taco Bell with my sister, and it was filled with caesar salad. I remember thinking, “This is disgusting. After all I have heard about burritos, things have got to be better than this.” Since then, I have searched for the personal appetite fulfillment that can only be accomplished by eating a perfectly delicious and entirely unhealthy burrito. Since that first non-burrito burrito, I have traveled a lot, and regardless of where I am, I always seek out the local Mexican food. Unlike some ethnic foods which are the same practically everywhere in the world, Mexican, perhaps do to lack or ingredients or a Hispanic immigrant population to produce the delicacy, takes on some strange forms in some foreign countries, especially the Eastern European ones. Take Indian food, for example, I have eaten Indian food in a number of countries (sadly not including India … yet. I bet it more than wonderful there, and certainly better than anything I have eaten to date.) and it is more or less the same everywhere. The best Indian food I ever had was in Munich. In Germany! Perhaps since Germans cater to Middle Eastern and South Asian tourists they are forced to provide the best they can. Then again, all food in Germany is pretty amazing.
Though sometimes I don’t really understand why some countries cannot reproduce the burrito, considering that the ingredients are pretty rudimentary, I appreciate the variety. I know Hungary has access to Mexican spices. I know for a fact since they are often used in Thai food here. Odd, I know. But, these same spices are never found in the Mexican food sold. Instead a whole variety of other flavors have entered the Hungarian burrito market, for better or worse. Some examples: canned pineapple pieces, paprika, mushrooms, purple cabbage, weird rices (brown, black, Chinese friend rice … strangely good by the way), carrots, hard boiled eggs, smoked cheeses, beets, pickles, anchovies, mustard, poppy seeds, basel, and mayonnaise. There are also a whole array of strange spices that sometimes work, like cinnamon, or really don’t, like fennel or curry powder.
Though I am a burrito aficionado, I sometimes do like to mix things up, but for the love of God, certain things do not ever belong in a burrito. Ketchup being one of them. Salad dressing being another. Maybe some people could pull it off. But, no. Not Hungary. Please stop. Ranch dressing does not belong in my burrito.
I think perhaps a main cause of this strangeness is there is some confusion between burritos and gyros. Both are highly enjoyable here, but sometimes the gyros flavors sneak into the burritos. Purple cabbage is probably the most delightfully surprising one. From now on all burritos should have the purple cabbage option. Hummus and tahini on the other hand? They really, really don’t meld with the guacamole, which as we all know is the most important ingredient.
Now that I have explained the burrito ingredients, time to move on to the extremely limited Mexican food options of Budapest.
Iguana: A traditional sit down TexMex restaurant complete with sombreros on the walls and other such tackiness. It is within walking distance from the US Embassy, and perhaps it exists solely for that reason. Though a bit out of my budget (It is extremely expensive since they claim to import special ingredients from Mexico. I did not witness that, however.) I have been there twice with friends. I recommend it. Burritos are not really their specialty, but the enchiladas I had there were to die for. Though, I am not sure if that was because I have been enchilada deprived for so long or if they were actually good. Also, suspect was the fact that the menu extended to fruit and ice cream desert tacos. That being said, that sort of sounds amazing. US restaurant comparison: Chevy’s. Worth it.
Burrita: The Hungarian version of Chipotle. It is good, though it probably has the strangest spices. Cinnamon blankets everything. It is constantly busy, however, demonstrating the fact that Hungarians are slowly falling in love with the burrito world. Perhaps in a few years, a better, more authentic, quality will emerge.
Arriba Taqueria: My personal favorite also resembles a Chipotle establishment, but has a greater number of offerings, mainly highly alcoholic margaritas. Also, it has guacamole, unlike Burrita. It is also cheaper and the people who work there actually listen to you when you say, “Please, don’t put ketchup on that…” While Burrita only offers burritos, Arriba offers tacos, salads, quesadillas, taquitos, and other little happy wonders. The menu even runs to some extremely scrumptious churros. And horchata. This restaurant competes in my mind with Мучачос (Muchachos), the Russian Chipotle knock off I went to in Moscow. They were also trying to attract people with free alcohol or coffee, and they had some decent quality for a decent price. Мучачос was definitely the ex-pat hang out (lots of English spoken) and Arriba is similar in that manner too.
Hungarians are good at many things, from math to physics to literature to cuisine to engineering, but they appear to be incapable of folding a burrito or determining the correct spice ratio. In the end, Hungarian burritos, though occasionally delightful, sometimes yield some surprising or unwanted flavors. Nevertheless, when you have been traveling and away from the Latin American food wonders available in California as long as I have, the Hungarian offerings will help you curb those cravings. Especially Arriba Taqueria. In fact, I think I might go get on right about …. now.