May 20, 2006

El Grillo (703 SW Ankeny St)

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"Seriously, this place has the best burritos. And you have to use the bathroom." That's how I first heard about El Grillo, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place downtown. A co-worker told me to go and drink a tall Corona with my meal and then venture to the restroom, hidden behind the swinging door connecting El Grillo with Mary's Club.

I didn't go for the Corona, but I did order a Diet Coke with the Burrito El Grillo - a giant burrito filled with tender ground beef, fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalepeno peppers, covered in enchilada sauce and cheese. Everything tasted so fresh and the cilantro was bright green and newly wilted by the heat of the meat. It was a simple burrito, but it was excellent. I even got a Mexican Flag on a toothpick on top. Fast service and friendly people enhanced the authentic food. (Okay, I've never been to Mexico as an adult, so for me to say it is authentic is, well, a rather unauthentic comment. But it seemed to me to be more authentically Mexican than Taco Bell or Baja Fresh at least.)

As we were eating, the back door swung open for a large man wearing a shirt with flowers or dolphins or some type of hideous pattern on it, coming in from the strip club with greasy hair and a toothy smile. "I'm ready for my drink," he said as he laughed with his belly.

The back door has a few signs on it, including "RESTROOM" and "NO MINORS ALLOWED" and "NO DRINKS FROM EL GRILLO ALLOWED IN THE BAR" and frequently swings open, wafting a breeze of cigarette smoke, whistling, cheering and clapping throughout, reminding the patrons of their proximity to a strip club.

I was going to get up the nerve to go use the restroom, since I haven't ever been to a strip club and I thought it would be an interesting adventure to write about it. However, my bladder was not that full and I'm not quite brave enough to go into a place like Mary's Club by myself on a Saturday afternoon, with a stomach full of burrito.

Great burritos, great people watching. Atmosphere - nice, but punctuated with cheers and whistles from men that are way more greasy than the food.

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